Notable Links: 3-20/14

How to Stop Putin in His Tracks

This crisis began, after all, when Putin took notice that Ukraine—which he and every other Russian leader in history have regarded as deeply tied to Russia—was drifting into the West’s orbit. Then-President Viktor Yanukovych had taken steps toward an affiliation with the European Union. Putin feared, correctly, that this development could wreck his plans for a “Eurasian Union” (which he saw as the basis for a revived Russian empire), and so he offered Yanukovych $15 billion in exchange for backing out of the Western league. Yanukovych took the bribe. Demonstrations broke out in Kiev, prompting crackdowns, prompting a widening of the protests … and the rest, we all know.

Lawrence Freedman, the pre-eminent scholar of strategy, has a long blog post in Wednesday’s War on the Rocks, noting that the “basic challenge of crisis management is to protect core interests while avoiding major war.” Part of this challenge, he adds, involves “a sense of knowing when to exercise restraints and respect limits,” as well as “a grasp of what the adversary needs to enable it to de-escalate or at least to desist from further escalation.”

NYC Inmate ‘Baked to Death’ in Cell

The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough’s exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

The department said it had addressed two contributing factors an outside consultant identified as causing the excess heat. It also said temperature checks immediately after the death revealed that several cells nearby were over 80 degrees.

Murdough was arrested Feb. 7 on a misdemeanor trespassing charge for sleeping in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a public housing building in Harlem and sent to Rikers after being unable to post a $2,500 bail, court records show. He was found dead in his cell in a special unit for inmates with mental illnesses a week later, in the early hours of Feb. 15, the officials said.

Advocates for mentally ill inmates say Murdough’s death represents the failure of the city’s justice system on almost every level: by arresting him instead of finding him help, by setting bail at a prohibitive $2,500 and by not supervising him closely in what is supposed to be a special observation unit for inmates with mental illnesses.

“He was a very lovely, caring guy,” said Murdough’s 75-year-old mother, Alma Murdough, adding that her son had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and that she had not seen him in about three years.

Open thread for night owls: An innocent man’s first days of freedom after 30 years imprisoned

I can’t imagine what it would be like to serve 30 years for a crime I didn’t commit. Not just locked-up, but locked-up because prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence, because the lawyers were inexperienced, because the convicting jury was all white, because a witness lied. Not just locked up, but held on death row, suffering the torture of decades of solitary confinement, waiting for the executioner to ply his trade. Just going on living, separated from kin and friends, would become a burden. Staying sane would be miraculous.

Somehow, Glenn Ford, a black Louisianan just three years younger than I, managed to do so. Arrested, railroaded, convicted, incarcerated and sentenced to die because of lies and prosecutorial misconduct. His dogged attorneys finally pried him out of the hands of the state last week. Exonerated and freed after 362 months’ incarceration, 348 of them behind bars at one of the nation’s foulest prisons, Ford has joined a world that is far different than the one he left when Ronald Reagan had not yet begun his second term.

How to be an ally: What Piers Morgan can learn from W. Kamau Bell

The media’s mess-ups have been rightly criticized by the transgender community and its allies, but the response has been a mixed bag: Morgan responded to the outcry especially poorly, claiming to be a victim of “cisphobia.” Couric, to her credit, acknowledged the criticism and clarified the offending segment — though she did not explicitly apologize for it. Grantland apologized for its errors. Leto only vaguely acknowledged the trans community in his follow-up acceptance speech at the Oscars.

Though Bell was admittedly ignorant regarding transgender issues prior to his San Francisco experience — and aired problematic representations of transgender issues on “Totally Biased” — unlike some of the aforementioned figures in the media, he is actively trying to learn from past mistakes. “I think that ultimately, if these people want to be allies, you really have to be willing to be corrected. And that’s the thing. It’s not always fun to be corrected and it’s also really helpful if you want to be a part of the discussion,” said Bell, who added that he’s not “trying to be the leader of the conversation.”

This is an approach that the rest of the media, even the well-intentioned, would benefit from. “I think that’s what happened with Jared Leto,” said Bell. “There was a sense, you felt like, when somebody challenged him on it he was like, ‘No, no, no. I know.’ For me, that’s the place I want to be clear about. I will lead a race discussion because I feel pretty solid about that, but if there’s a transgender person in the room, I’d like to pass the mic to them.”


11 thoughts on “Notable Links: 3-20/14

  1. About the mentally ill homeless veteran, that is tragic. This man served his country but is mentally ill and homeless. When people serve there country in the military they should be better taken care of. This man dying in a prison cell in this manner is inhumane.

  2. W. Kamau Bell, Either I am just out of the loop and just not hip enough, but i just don’t get it about him. I don’t think he is funny. Is he supposed to be the comic/ cultural critic for the hipsters? I don’t get him.

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