Monday, October 31, 2011

World's Best Halloween Costume: Population Bomb

For those looking for a population bomb Halloween costume there would be many choices. After all it may turn out to be another Y2K. Or it could be Rwanda. Or Somalia. Or Even the U.S.

How about dressing up like Anglican clergyman Thomas Malthus. In 1798 he predicted humankind would eat itself out of existence.

There would be plenty of backup from war and disease. Greed figures in there somewhere.

"The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man," he wrote.

Malthus might be writing slogans today for the Occupy Wall Street activists. He stated that misery and vice were useful tools for making the world live in poverty and repression.

Many believe his doomsday predictions have been proven wrong. How so? This week the U.N.  announced the world's population had reached 7 billion.

Earlier predictions said it would be 9.3 billion by 2000. It may well become an explosion. There seems no will on the planet to stop it, other than greed.

What happened? More prosperous countries began to find large families inconvenient. Along came AIDS and other diseases. War was/is never far away.

Many scientists say the Earth cannot sustain such larger numbers. Others are more skeptical. Perhaps we can have an Green Internet and download food; more likely people will starve but not enough to die. Pogo once quoted a Russian leader as saying shortages will be divided among the peasants.

"Famines do not simply occur _ they are organized by the grain trade," wrote Bertolt Brecht, who wrote "The Three Penny Opera" with Kurt Weill before they fled Hitler's Germany.

His "How Fortunate The Man With None," which is available in numerous versions on YouTube from Brecht's play "Mother Courage" relates his zeitgeist in a beautiful and powerful manner reminiscent of Jim Morrison's "The End."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Obama Is A Peacemaker

President Obama met with immense ridicule when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize not long after taking office, but who could have known how effective he would be.

If he had lived a century ago he might have been a bounty hunter carrying a Colt Peacemaker: Muammar Gaddafi, Osama Bin Laden, and more are likely to follow. The death toll has been higher for common folk but they refused to give up.

The day after Gaddafi died Obama announced we would be bringing our 39,000 soldiers home from Iraq before Christmas.

No one explained the award better than Obama himself: "Throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes," Obama said. "And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century."

There were many things as well that did not serve humanity, toleration of torture for example. Too often he seemed to be the tool of the military and the bankers.

Yet when that challenge came, in the form of the Arab Spring, even though his administration was barely staying afloat under constant attack from the Republicans he did not back down.

With the Internet preventing dictators from hiding their gruesome excesses, Obama joined France, England and other European countries, as well as seducing the Arab League, to bring democracy into North Africa and the Middle East. It began reaching elsewhere. Now the Occupy Wall Street has served warning: banks do not own governments.

Events in the past year have made it difficult to know when this will stop, or whether it can even be stopped.

And Obama was the leader, while struggling with his day job. And that was jobs for his people.

Many who had voted for him believed he had let them down, that he was spineless. That kind of talk has stopped, at least for the moment.

Now his people can see what he can do if he is not having to spend most of his time fighting his own people. Syria may be the next test. He may be allowed to keep troops in Afghanistan longer than the nation wants, yet they will want an assurance that they are coming home.

For now he is acting like a leader. If he keeps it up he may win another term. If he backs off it will be a great disappointment for the progressives and liberals who put him in office.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Circumstances Of Gaddafi's Death Unclear

Media reports from Paris military sources suggest a convoy of vehicles transporting Muammar Gaddafi was attacked by French warplanes and a U.S. predator as he attempted to leave his concrete bunker tunnels before he was captured alive.

Video footage indicates he later died, and possibly was beaten to death in humiliating fashion in his hometown. Fighters said he was shot with a 9mm pistol.

His death brings to an end more than 40 years of brutal rule and has ended in the biggest victory of the Arab Spring.

The Times of India said Gaddafi shouted "Don't Shoot, Don't Shoot," to no avail when he was discovered hiding in an underground bunker's concrete tunnels. An Al Jazeera video suggests he was beaten to death after being shot. A DNA sample will be required to confirm it is the true dictator.

Some unconfirmed reports said the U.S. military had been involved in the capture after attacking a convoy, and that he was taken alive.

Libyans took to the streets to celebrate. Le Monde said the entire city of Sirte was liberated, though it was devastated by NATO bombs and the fighting between NTC fighters and Gaddafi supporters. An Al Jazeera reporter said Sirte had received so much money from Gaddafi that it was a jewel of the kingdom before the fighting.

The two news outlets quoted the NTC government. President Obama confirmed the death. It was a major victory for the U.S., France, the U.K., the Arab League and other supporters. For Moscow it was a slap in the face.

Photos Al Jazeera.

“We announce to the world that Gaddafi has died at the hands of the revolution,” Abdel Hafez Ghoga, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council, was quoted by Al Arabiya as saying.
“It is a historic moment. It is the end of tyranny and dictatorship. Gaddafi has met his fate.”

Al Jazeera and the BBC reported the death. Video footage appeared to show the body being brutalized. He had been hiding like Saddam Hussein, in under ground concrete tunnels, nothing like the defiant warrior waiting to return as described by so many in the mainstream media. He may go down in history as the most successful manipulator of the media of all time.

The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, an NTC official told Al Jazeera.

"Gaddafi's body is with our unit in a car and we are taking the body to a secret place for security reasons," Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told Reuters.

Many will be pleased, including relatives of more than 400 passengers and  crew on the Pan Am Lockerbie flight and UTA 772. His agents killed thousands of Libyans.

It took less than a year to bring him down, mocking those who insisted he would be able defiantly lead a desert war for years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Does The Blood From Syria Lead To Moscow

Those choosing to blame the U.S. and the U.N. for not stopping the hospital murders in Syria need to review the Soviet role. Is it another Hungary, just in a different style?

They began throwing their weight around in Syria decades before the fall of the Soviet Empire. Without their weapons would there be a toll of several thousand in what is nearly a civil war?

Indeed, Russia was only the Soviet Union for about 70 years but its defeat by the West was a humiliation it has not lived down. The nationalism it appears to be returning to lasted more than 400 years, and even preceeded the Russian empire. The Tsar was known as the “Tsar of all the Russias.”

There is no doubt Russia is preventing the U.N. from blasting Bashar Al-Assad from power, what would be an easy job compared to Libya. Syria is much smaller geographically, and is surrounded mostly by Turkey, Iraq and Israel.

Why does Vladimir Putin take this stand? His critics say it is because Russia is returning to its nationalist heritage.

Moscow plans to restore a naval base in Syria near Tartus next year to handle modern warships. The port has been left to rust for years.

Moscow also supplies weapons to Damascus, though whether it will get paid remains unknown.

Putin’s government has put itself in such a gridlock with Arab League countries facing increasing demands for democracy it is trying diversions like supporting admission of Palestine to UNESCO. Should they support allowing Palestine into the U.N. that might mean something.

Perhaps the play given Ria Novosti to a story about the Arab League calling for peace talks to begin within 15 days indicates Putin understands Al-Assad will fall, and it will be two losses in a row for Moscow when it betted on the wrong horse.

Putin’s critics, including Mikhail Gorbachev, accuse him of trying to draw the former republics back into its circle.

Gorbachev, who stood up against the Communists to end their rule, opposed Putin’s decision to run for president again. He said Putin’s United Russian party reminded him of the Communist Party, and he feared the repression of old would be brought back.

He told Der Spiegel that Putin was “dragging the country into the past, when it is on fire with modernization.”

Putin this week denied any ambition to restore the former empire and told Western critics “to mind their own business,” the kind of diplomacy no doubt taught at the KGB.

So far Putin has met with only moderate resistance from the U.S. and Western Europe but it would not be a surprise if the U.N. becomes a verbal battlefield like the one that existed during the Cold War.

Can Moscow expect to be invited into NATO? Perhaps entry into the World Trade Organization. But even being in trade organizations do not rule out restrictions being imposed base on human rights’ issues or monopolistic policies originating from poorly hidden nationalistic tendencies.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Does The Night Remain As Starry Without A Suicide?

Has the time come for envious artists to end their loathing of Vincent Van Gogh for showing them up? Two authors report he did not kill himself after selling only one painting.

“Everyone wants to get on the Van Gogh boat. There’s no trip that’s so horrible that someone won’t take it,” in the words of Basquiat writer/director Julian Schnabel.

Ignore the next Van Gogh and “you might be staring at Van Gogh’s ear,” he added.

The extent of ear removed by Van Gogh has already been disputed, but it was enough for Paul Gauguin to carry him to the Auvers hospital in critical condition. That story must end there. It raises more questions that are even more scandalous.

“Van Gogh: The Life” is 900 pages of even tiny details, but near the end the bombshell hits. Authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith say the painter was accidentally shot with a faulty gun by two teens he knew.

As the story goes, and it seems consistent with the life that preceded it, Van Gogh helped cover up what happened. He wanted to die, despite being at the apogee of his painting life, because of his declining health and the burden he placed on brother Theo.

Although some reports have the curator of the Van Gogh Museum damning the reports, Leo Jansen’s statement merely said many questions remain unanswered and it would be “premature to rule out suicide.”

And it is not the first time such a claim has been made.  The late art historian John Rewald, who visited Auvers in the late 1930s came to the same conclusion after talking to villagers about the “fou roux” or red-headed mad man.

“These two boys, one of whom was wearing a cowboy outfit and had a malfunctioning gun, you have a boy who likes to play cowboy, you have three people probably all of whom had too much to drink,” the BBC quotes Rewand as writing. The bullet to the stomach took more than a day to kill the painter in 1890 at the age of 37.

By this time Van Gogh was in his absinthe days, an anise-flavored drink called 'The Green Fairy" that gained a reputation for exaggerated hallucinogenic powers.

One thing is for certain. His 2,000 art works, done while fitting in other temporary day jobs, including a pastor serving pathetically poor miners, stand for themselves.

In one of the last of his hundreds of letters to brother Theo, who followed him in death by only a few months, "I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Want to Get Thinner, Take More Time Cooking and Eating

A review of the publicity generated by this month’s upcoming food day,  it certainly is often more PR than information, indicates it will be another venture into out-of-control rhetoric.

Many have stopped reading, listening to watching TV because the rules keep changing so often, though too often we only found out the previous rules were wrong or exaggerated decades later.

Although some talk of fat taxes, low-fat is out to a large degree, and fat returning according to the latest science. Meanwhile fast food, at home, at work, in school and restaurants keeps making most of us fatter. Not just the U.S. either.

My twins stuff themselves on the bête noire of nutritionists, fructose-heavy fast food. They have grown up to believe that steak, sausage and bacon are bad. That isn’t why they don’t eat them though. It takes time to cook. And requires kitchen cleaning.

In the U.S. the need for speed drives everything. It’s an issue that is not discussed so much in the mainstream meetings on diet. Reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon showing a man on the edge of a bed getting dressed. He says to the woman next to him something like this: “Of course I ejaculated prematurely. I am a busy man.”

The fact is experts say people don’t even tell them the truth about what they eat. Britain’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, says she and her colleagues need to know the truth to determine how to try to deal with it.

“It is about what we eat, how we cook it and about portion size,” she told the BBC.

Many of us have heard how great fish and olive oil are. Yet sometimes knowing that doesn’t help you find a product, except at speciality stores, like tuna in olive oil. And it will cost.

Coke has its legendary after-taste. Salt makes chips inviting, only the constantly rising prices an obstacle. More expensive foods are seemingly healthier, meaning they cost more. A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Despite evolution we still are like a deer in headlights where salt is concerned. There is even a reality show, "The Biggest Loser."

So all the speeches in all the month will not knock the food kings off the wall.

And take care before adopting too many new fashions. Indeed, it might save more lives to tax underweight people. But they might need to be given financial help. Their weight may not even be their choice.

There is a slow cooking, and it has been around for more than 20 years.

But even TV shows and movies romanticizing such cooking don't seem to have much impact when faced with the pressures of a daily life that should be easier with all our conveniences. Seems everyone, especially employers, expect more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Apple Officially Enters Clouds

Officially, at least, Steve Jobs beat Apple into the clouds by a week. But looking at it from a different angle it shows how his presence lives on.

This week’s the company’s servers were catching up as it replaced its Mobileme with iCloud. So many users were making the switch that some met delays.

In reality, Mobileme was a cloud-based product. Amazon, Google, Netflix and others also have been effectively offering storage space and streaming for some time.

Apple released IOS5 on Wednesday to replace its paid Mobileme  mail and other offerings on the iPhone, iPad and Macs. And its basic service will be free via iTunes.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that by the end of the year consumers will be able to pay to watch movies, making it a competitor of Netflix and Ultraviolet. They will have a choice of renting the films for a specific period or paying a higher price and downloading them as a purchase.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

ICRC Libya Sirte Situation Desperate

Tripoli/Geneva (ICRC) – On 10 and 11 October, staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) evacuated a total of 25 war-wounded and other patients from Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte. The patients had been left with only a few health-care personnel to care for them following fierce fighting in recent days.

"The situation inside the hospital is very chaotic and distressing," said Patrick Schwaerzler, the ICRC delegate in charge of the evacuations. "When we arrived there, we found patients with severe burns and shrapnel wounds. Some had sustained recent amputations. A few were half-conscious. They were lying among crowds of other people who were also asking us for help."

The hospital has been partly destroyed and is not functional any more. It was urgent to move out wounded patients requiring intensive care or specialized treatment. "Today we even brought out a newborn baby in its incubator," said Mr Schwaerzler.

On 11 October the ICRC evacuated 17 patients from Sirte hospital, most of them war casualties, accompanied by four close relatives and the baby of a patient. This morning, Libyan Red Crescent volunteers also brought seven patients who needed no further hospitalization, together with six family members, back to their homes on the eastern side of Sirte.

On 10 October the ICRC had evacuated eight wounded patients from the hospital.

The ICRC transferred the first group of evacuated patients to a hospital in Tripoli. The second group are being taken to a medical facility west of Sirte, for onward transport by helicopter to hospitals in Tripoli.

Four ICRC medical personnel, together with the remaining staff at the hospital, made sure the wounded patients were stable enough to be transported and willing to leave. All parties concerned agreed to this urgent evacuation.

The Libyan Red Crescent is transferring a further group of 18 foreign nationals (Egyptians, Palestinians and Lebanese), who had gathered at the hospital and wanted to leave the city, to Harawa, some 50 kilometres east of Sirte. From there they will proceed to a camp for displaced people in Benghazi. The evacuated foreigners, as well as the remaining foreign staff at the hospital and other foreign nationals there, were given the opportunity to make satellite phone calls to their loved ones, who had had no news of them since the outbreak of heavy fighting in Sirte.

"We saw hundreds of civilians fleeing Sirte yesterday and today, but thousands are still caught inside the city," said Mr Schwaerzler. "There is no electricity, and no food has reached civilians in the city for weeks. All parties engaged in the hostilities must take all possible precautions to spare them."

More than 20,000 people, among them many women, children and elderly people, have so far left their homes in Sirte. In addition, dozens of people have been arrested in recent days.

Three ICRC trucks and six lighter vehicles were used in the evacuations. An explosive ordnance disposal expert helped to make sure the road was safe. In total, 15 ICRC staff were involved in the two-day effort, which was carried out with the support of Libyan Red Crescent volunteers. This was the fourth time since the beginning of the month that the ICRC had entered Sirte to perform its humanitarian tasks.

For further information, please contact:
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Tripoli/Benghazi, tel: +88 16 22 411 614
or +218 9 923 304 560 or +218 913 066 198
Soumaya Beltifa, ICRC Tripoli/Benghazi, tel: +218 928 467 594
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50
or visit our website:

To preview and download the latest ICRC video footage in broadcast quality, go to

Map: #Occupy protests across America - Occupy Wall Street - Al Jazeera English

Map: #Occupy protests across America - Occupy Wall Street - Al Jazeera English

The Parapluies de Seattle

Back in the Cold War days when there was trouble in Moscow, Americans turned to the Western media to try to find out the truth. Now the Russian media, and others, say the U.S. media is trying to black out our problems.

Le Monde reports today about parapluies being banned in Seattle, not Cherbourg during the days of the Algerian war. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said Occupy Wall Street protestors were using them to hide. They have been designated structures and therefore may not stand in parks.

Russian Television’s Website devotes a column to events throughout the U.S.

“When not maced in the face or dragged around during police arrests, a peaceful tone prevails at the Occupy Wall Street protests,” RT reported.

Much of it is live streeting … while another large part is live streaming. Sort of like in Cairo during the April Spring, screens carry messages from the Big Apple to Hollywood.

Even now an embedded media pays little attention to the two wars that consume American blood and money. The fact that our main ally, Pakistan, supports insurgents who kill American troops, is ignored.

How did Osama die? The story was widely told in Europe that a Pakistani intelligence officer sold him out after years of being supported by Saudi money.

The crowds do get attention, though. Hard to ignore. More than 25 tents were set up in the rain and snow on Columbus Day across from the state capitol in Denver. Troopers took no action as at least one of the protesters was a member of the Legislature. A young man yelled at my son, as we drove by, "I'm 29 and I have never lived in a democracy."

“What we here is now over 250,000 people have signed a pledge of support for the occupiers saying we’re with you, we stand with you, we are united in the fight for real democracy and against corruption and for a government that’s truly accountable to the people and not corrupt elite,” campaigner Cambronero told RT.

Protesters keep busy with meetings and reading, not so much TV.

“99 percent of the country don’t have control of the wealth as they should _ it’s not evenly distributed. One percent of the country owns 42 percent of the wealth,” poet and hip hop artist Talib Kweli said.

The government seems at a stalemate. Is this the party of the late Republican President Ronald Reagan. He denounced the rich getting breaks on taxes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

America Loses Its Leonardo

 The only thing I regret about Steve Jobs is that I came to know his products too late. He truly was America’s Leonardo da Vinci.
   My first Apple product was an iMac. To say it was aesthetically pleasing is an understatement. I was curious. Where was the rest of it?
   Then came the iPod, laptops, a new iMac, an iPad.
   And the Apple stores. Instead of driving myself nuts trying to make my other computers work I would make an appointment at the Genius bar.
   Yes, their hardware was expensive. But their software was cheap.
   Even with all the newfangled things this baby boomer saw in his life nothing was so grand.
   He was Mr. MacIntosh.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Problem With Some Citizen Journalism

I had thought citizen journalism would be out-of-the-box writing.

Having spent more than 35 years with AP and others, including overseas, I had fought and fought against gate-keepers.

God forbid anything should be original. Put the original material at the bottom so when the news got to its outlets editors there would remove it.

Time after time we were told to include context in stories. When we did it was removed. One editor wrote me up for reporting that the Germany Army had used mustard gas in World War I.

At the same time we were pushed to Murdock journalism. Get quotes from victims of terrible tragedies.

The impact it has on writers is similar to what happens to firefighters or police.

I once asked why I was so often the asked to do it, Columbine for example. Because you are so good at it, I was told.

So when doing so much of this resulted in early retirement due to PTSD and other issues, I was surprised that my psychologist and psychiatrist (both ex-Army lieutenant colonels) urged me to keep writing.

There were plenty of people who wanted me to write. I went in several directions and ultimately was invited to write for Allvoices. It was an organization that claimed was founded to make it possible for people in the Third World and elsewhere to get to tell their story.

I enjoyed it at first because I could put my spin on stories about Afghanistan, Libya and science, art, and history.

After a time it became clear to me that I was merely creating a diversion for their pornography and plagiarism. They couldn’t even get the plagiarism right.

Instead of bringing us stories from their homes that the mainstream media never covered they focused on Charlie Sheen and the likes. Often their writing was incoherent.

There were no editors.

Pornography frequently was the best seller.

There are Websites that include  writing from citizen journalists, but the biggest ones carried old, badly written, disgusting and hoax stories.

Make up your own mind. Google Allvoices and Amra Tareen. Read of the plans they made that never came true.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tax Cuts Helping Kansas Wife-Beaters

Around the nation inmates are being released from jails because they are too crowded. Topeka, Kansas is taking it to a new level.

The city is considering no more prosecutions for domestic abuse because it is broke.

The county, Shawnee, had been handling them but it stopped because it can’t afford the cost either. It has already released 16 accused spouse beaters.
This leaves abused women in a real perilous situation. Kansas law requires that a spouse accused of abuse be arrested.

But if the abuser is not going to be punished then upon release the victim may face more assaults.

"Women are in increased danger after they have called police and after there is an arrest, because often times the abuser will blame the victim for his arrest," said Becky Dickinson, of the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.
"When an abusive partner is arrested, the victim's danger level increases," Dickinson told The International Business Times. "The abuser will often become more violent in an attempt to regain control. Letting abusive partners out of jail with no consequences puts victims in incredibly dangerous positions.

Meanwhile, the feds have launched a big operation in California, which no doubt will cost many millions, to shut down marijuana operations. A small fraction of that likely would pay for all the domestic abuse cases in the entire Sunflower state.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Neutrality of Language

It seemed so horrible when I first heard
Though that Kabul suicide bombing blast lent just the right tone
For the day some said would be the apocalypse
But if it were really true would we have even heard
It only takes a few minutes to get over things these days anyway
And if there is even a faint pulse a blood pulp can be kept alive
When a bullet to the head would be more merciful
Or bullets to the chest and head like Bin Laden
Those covered in blood learn so many neutral ways to explain it
Things not even a Primo Levi would try to make sense of
Let's just call it post-traumatic stress disorder
Because there are so many neutral ways
To tell stories that shouldn't even be imagined Let alone told
A rape is a sexual assault
A bloody bombing is the work of "militants"
Kind of makes you wonder what you call really bad people
It's unlikely a Shakespeare or Camus would be up to it
Better left to an Edgar Allan Poe or even Stephen King
But our world clearly passed even them by years...

Two People Open Fire at Colorado High School

Washington Post

Two Teens Open Fire at Colorado High School
Littleton locator map
(The Washington Post) 
By Robert Weller
Associated Press Writer
April 20, 1999; 6:03 p.m. EDT
BULLETIN: Two suspects in Colorado school shooting dead, police say.
LITTLETON, Colo. -- Two people witnesses described as young men dressed in long, black trench coats opened fire in a suburban Denver high school today, scattering students as gunshots ricocheted off lockers. At least 20 people were injured, including one girl shot nine times. Others wounded were trapped inside for hours.
Two suspects in Colorado school shooting dead, police say.
Explosions also were reportedly heard in Columbine High School.
Some 4 1/2-hours later, police led away a student from the school in handcuffs.
``He's one of the ones who shot at us,'' said Chris Wisher, another student. Police had no immediate comment.
Nearly two hours after the 11:30 a.m. shooting, SWAT team members entered the building and 15 to 20 students fled. The frightened students ran out with their hands in the air and were later frisked by police. Several other groups of youths ran from the school in the following hours after an armored car was brought to an entrance for cover.
There was no confirmation that the gunmen were still inside by late afternoon. SWAT team members searching the building were able to see some wounded students but couldn't reach them because the area wasn't secure, said Steve Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
Television images, broadcast nationwide, showed police cars and ambulances at a staging area near the school, and helmeted officers in camouflage gear. At one point, a bloodied young man dangled from a second-floor window, his right arm limp, and was helped down by two SWAT team members. His condition was not immediately known.
``We believe there are a few more victims,'' Davis said a short time earlier. ``We're hearing from deputies who can see from their vantage points more victims.''
He said police were looking for two suspects, but ``where in the building is unknown.''
One student, Kami Vest, called her father as she hid in the school with 30 other students. ``They have been able to call out on a cell phone and tell us they are OK,'' Dale Vest said. He said at midafternoon that she remained in hiding.
President Clinton asked Americans to pray for the students, parents and teachers.
Shortly after the school was stormed, three youths wearing black -- but not trench coats -- were stopped by police in a field near the school. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation told KUSA-TV the three were friends of the gunmen and were taken in for questioning.
Some witnesses said there were two gunmen and the shootings took place around the school, including the cafeteria and library.
``At first we just though they were firecrackers until we saw the guns come out of the trench coats,'' said student Justin Woods.
``They walked down the stairs and they started shooting people,'' said another student, who gave her name as Janine. ``We didn't think it was real and then we saw blood.'' Her voice broke with anguish as she spoke.
She said it was two young men, wearing black trench coats.
``They were shooting people and throwing grenades and stuff. ... Me and my friends got to my car and drove off,'' she said.
Bob Sapin, another student, also said the gunmen were all in black, in trench coats and masks.
``When they started walking down the hallway, I ran and I ran and I hid in the bushes,'' he said.
Eight to 10 students in the school wear black trench coats every day, students said. Josh Nielsen said they are known as the ``Trench Coat Mafia.'' Another student, Jason Greer, called them ``jerks.'' ``They are really strange, but I've never seen them do anything violent,'' he said.
Sean Kelly, a 16-year-old junior, said members of the group kept to themselves and were ``kind of gothic. They are wearing dusters. They wear them every day, all black clothing.''
``They're into guns and stuff like that,'' he added.
Columbine High is in the middle-class suburb of Littleton, population 35,000, southwest of Denver. Single-family homes line winding roads through the neighborhood.
The school opened in 1973 and has an enrollment of about 1,800. Nearby schools were put on a lockdown status, with students prohibited from entering or leaving.
A series of school shootings since 1997 shocked the nation and led to calls for tighter security and closer monitoring of troubled students. Two were killed at a school in Pearl, Miss., three at West Paducah, Ky., five at Jonesboro, Ark., and two at a school in Springfield, Ore.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

Gabriella Giffords and the Wonders of Neuroplasticity

The valiant struggle of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, victim of a bullet that traversed her brain "through and through," is a marvel. It is just four months since she was shot in the left hemisphere of the brain, the side most studied because injuries to it are more obvious. Even though a teaching hospital was nearby, making state-of-the art care available, neither that nor her will to recover would have mattered without "neuroplasticity."
In short, neuroplasticity, also known as "cortical remapping," is a term for how the brain can find other ways to make things work when its usual pathways are destroyed or blocked. Imagine that you are driving down a road and suddenly it stops and you have to figure out where to do. The brain has a kind of GPS that will find a way.
Doctors and scientists had believed for more than a century that brain damage was incurable. They also believed the development of the brain virtually ended after early youth.
But as early as 1890, psychologist William James proposed that brains could evolve, in what is now known as "remapping."
Wikipedia explains neuroplasticity thus:
Neuroplasticity (also known as cortical remapping) refers to the ability of the brain to change as a result of one's experience, that the brain is 'plastic' and 'malleable'. The discovery of this feature of the brain is rather modern; the previous belief amongst scientists was that the brain does not change after the critical period of infancy.

The brain consists of nerve cells (or "neurons") and glial cells which are interconnected, and learning may happen through change in the strength of the connections, by adding or removing connections, and by the formation of new cells. "Plasticity" relates to learning by adding or removing connections, or adding cells.
James wrote about this possibility in "The Principles of Psychology," published in 1890. Sigmund Freud suspected this in a phenomenon he called transference, when he observed in 1914 that memories thought forgotten could reappear as actions. For more than a century the theories of James, Freud and others were widely rejected.
Just four years ago, while researching new brain scan techniques that could accurately spot minor traumatic brain injuries in soldiers, I was told by a science writer that I shouldn't bother because there were no treatments for brain damage.
There is much more to tell, and I will elsewhere. It is worth noting that what acclaimed physician-author Dr. Oliver Sacks would have called Giffords' "therapeutic moment" came early. An emergency room physician asked her to squeeze his hand with her left hand as she entered, and she could. The right hand wouldn't respond, showing that there was much to be done.
Giffords' staff has been pushing Congress to make the same kind of care she received available to everyone. Presently, many insurance companies require patients to pay out of their own pocket for the latest in brain spect scans. Fine if you have several thousand dollars or more not being used for anything else.
And the Catch-22 is that some won't pay if depression is considered part of the equation. Wow. Which came first: the depression or the trauma?
Perhaps one of the most horrible stories in the history of medicine is that many thousands of brain injury or disease patients were considered little more than vegetables, to be fed and watered, as described in Sacks' movie "Awakenings."
Why assume the patients were completely unaware of what was going on around them? Because the alternative was unthinkable, said a physician played by Max Von Sydow in "Awakenings."
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Previously published on the Huffington Post