Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Apple #735: Truck Weigh Stations

I have had a request!  Daily Apple reader Jamal and his friend Monique wanted to know how trucking weigh stations work. That seemed like a pretty simple question, but when I conversed some more with Jamal, it turned out that he and Monique were wondering, what is to prevent some truck from driving a ton of explosives into some city and blowing it up, as happened in Nice.  They were wondering if those truck weigh stations, by virtue of how they work, would catch something like that.

The second part of this question turned out to be really hard to figure out.

In pursuit of the answer, I have read a ton of truck-driving websites, training manuals, and chat rooms.  I've learned a fair bit about truck driving, a whole lot about truckers' antipathy for the police, the complicated and sometimes adversarial relationship they have with the companies for whom they drive, and I've read more than a few trucker tales (they weren't as good as I was hoping for, or I'd have shared some).  I'll try to distill what I've learned into some usable bites for you to nibble on.  Hopefully by the end of this, we'll have arrived at or close to the answer Jamal and Monique were seeking.

Trucks lining up to get weighed at a weigh station.
(Photo from The Lantech Blog)

What Weigh Stations Are For

I thought I knew how these things work, just from having seen them in action as I drove past.  I was wrong.

  • Originally the weigh stations were constructed to make sure that commercial trucks of 26,000 lbs & above were paying their required fuel taxes.  The weigh stations were built to weigh the trucks to make sure that people weren't trying to dodge those taxes even though their trucks might weight more than 26,000 lbs.
  • Now, fuel taxes are collected quarterly, so the primary purpose of the weigh stations is to make sure the trucks are not exceeding unsafe weight limits.
  • Each of the 3 axles of a commercial interstate truck has a weight limit, as does the total truck: 
    • Steer axle -- front tires on the truck -- < 12,000 lbs 
    • Drive axle -- back tires on the truck, beneath the front of the trailer -- < 34,000 lbs
    • Trailer axle -- tires beneath the back of the trailer -- < 34,000 lbs
    • Gross vehicle weight -- truck, trailer, all cargo -- < 80,000 lbs (sum of the 3 axles)
  • Some of those weights vary in different states, but those are generally correct for most states.  If your total weight exceeds 80,000 lbs, you need to get a special permit which costs money and which takes a lot of time, which can be expensive in its own way.
  • From what I've gathered, these weight limits are in place to protect the safety of other vehicles (more weight = more devastation in a crash) but mainly to keep the roads from getting driven deeper into the ground.
  • These rules about axle weight result in the drivers having to be obsessed not just about how much weight they're carrying, but about how it's distributed over the axles.  You can't just shove all 950 crates of potatoes in the truck and take off; you have to make sure it's distributed throughout the trailer so that none of the axles exceeds its weight limit -- and it also has to be secured so it won't slide around while you're driving. 

Weighing a Truck

  • If one of your axles comes in over weight, you might think that all you need to do is to re-balance the load, but you have to take into account the weight of the fuel, your weight personally when you're in the cab, the weight of the tires themselves, etc.  Sometimes the guy who loaded your crates of potatoes with the forklift has gone off to help someone else, so you've got to figure out a different solution.  
  • One trick is to use what's called the tandem sliders to change the position of the trailer axle (farthest-back tires) beneath the trailer.  Moving the trailer axle closer to the front means it takes weight off the drive axle and more weight onto itself.  Moving it farther back means more of the weight falls on the drive axle.
I need to move the [trailer tires] back – but just a little bit. It takes me a couple of tries, and I find that I’m stuck between two positions. On one, the drives are over, on the other it’s the trailer. Adam and I discuss options. We’re SO close. Maybe a DOT officer won’t care about 100 pounds. But maybe he will. That’s a violation and a fine. Both our record and our company’s record gets a ding for it. I don’t want to take the chance. We joke that Adam could lay across the dash when we go through weight stations. We figure we can leave our fuel below 3/4 of a tank to help.  
  • The fine for being over weight limits starts at $300 and goes up, plus you get a citation on your commercial driving record, which can make it more difficult to get a job with another company.  They're not sure they want to take the risk, so they decide to check their weights on certified scales, or CAT scales.  

Certified CAT scale, typically available at larger truck stops.  Costs $10 to weigh your truck. Drive up, park, go tell the scale operator your trailer number, then get your weight ticket.
(Photo from Somanymiles)

  • Most shippers have their own scales on site, but they're not certified to be accurate so they can be a little off.  If you want an official, totally reliable weight, you can drive your truck to a certified CAT scale.  If your truck comes in with a different weight at a weigh station and you get hit with a fine, CAT will pay the fine.
  • CAT scales are at larger truck stops, and you do have to drive your loaded truck to get to one, so you have to hope there's one close to where you are, and especially for there not to be a weigh station in between you and the CAT scale.
  • Our trucker Robin took her truck to the CAT scale, paid the $10 to use it, and the weights came in just under.
  • The time it took to shift the cargo, re-balance the axles, weigh, re-balance, weigh again etc. until getting to an acceptable weight: 8 hours.
  • The CAT scales give you an official ticket, showing the weight of the 3 axles and the gross weight.  You have to have this with you in your truck in case you get stopped, either by a DOT officer or by a state police officer or by local police.  More on this ticket in a bit.

Ticket from a CAT scale showing the 3 axle weights and gross truck weight.
(Photo from Somanymiles)

Types of Weigh Stations and What Happens There

  • You've seen weigh stations along the highways a million times.  There's an exit ramp with a weigh station sign that says open or closed.  When it's open, the trucks have to pull off the road onto the ramp, drive slowly in front of the little house-like thing that is the station, something mysterious happens, then they drive slowly away.  
  • Sometimes the stations get really backed up with waiting trucks, sometimes only a few are being weighed and other trucks are passing by, and sometimes the thing isn't even open.

Weigh station in use
(Photo from Weighing Review)

  • Different weigh stations work differently.  The old-school kind weigh one axle at a time.  These are time-consuming, since you have to drive one axle onto the scale, get that weighed, inch forward so the second axle is on the scale, get that weighed, then pull farther forward to get the final axle weighed, and then all 3 are added together.
  • Other weigh stations are "one-stop" scales, meaning you pull your entire truck onto the scale and it takes all the weights at once. You do still have to come to a complete stop, though.
  • A newer method which is becoming more common is the "weigh-in-motion" scale or WIM.  With these, you drive slowly over the scale but you don't have to stop.  Some stations don't even require the trucks to pull off the road; the scales are installed beneath the highway so the trucks can drive over them at speed, and the scales record the weight.
  • Another new technology allows trucks to bypass the weigh stations.  They work like the E-Z Pass that you buy to let you go through toll stations because you've already paid ahead of time.
  • First there's a thing with sensors in it that hangs out over the road and scans the vehicles going under it. 

EZ-Pass system used to tell truckers whether or not to pull over & get weighed.
(Photos from Baby & Honey Bear

  • Then there's the part in the vehicle, in this case, a transponder.  If you've got a transponder in your truck, the sensor arm thing will communicate to the transponder.  If it flashes green, you don't have to stop.  If it flashes red, you do.  If you blow past the weigh station even though your thing flashed green, the DOT cruiser will come after you and pull you over and the officer will not be happy.
  • If you do have to stop to get your truck weighed, yours can be one of the lucky trucks that is randomly or not-so-randomly told to pull over for an inspection.  If this happens, you will let loose a stream of curse words, and then try to put on as polite a face as possible when the officer begins speaking to you.
  • The list of things for which your truck may be in violation is very long.  I'm sure I haven't  uncovered even half the things that could get you flagged for an inspection.  But here are some of them:
    • Improper placarding of cargo -- if you've got hazardous stuff on board, you have to have a placard displaying such
    • Equipment is in disrepair -- could be anything from a bad ball bearing to missing reflective tape to rust or chipped paint. This could be your company's fault, as they may not keep up with maintenance as they should and they require you to drive a truck in bad shape. Too bad for you; you'll be on the hook for the fine.
    • Not having a spare tire in the rack beneath the trailer 
    • Unsecured tandem sliders -- this is legitimately dangerous
    • Evidence of erratic or improper driving -- pretty much the same sorts of things that get cars pulled over: seat belt not on, speeding, improper lane changes, failure to signal, etc.
    • Signs of possible impairment due to drugs or alcohol
    • Something about you looks funny
    • You're hauling something the officer wants -- one officer told a guy that, the next time he came through the weigh station, have one of those honey-baked hams he was hauling on the front seat.  He did, the officer took the ham, and the trucker didn't get a fine.
  • Once you've been told you're getting inspected, the officer will ask you for all sorts of documentation that you'd better have handy.  Most truckers have a binder that contains all the official documents they need. Those documents may include
    • Commercial driver's license
    • Cab card -- you are licensed to drive this particular cab
    • Proof of insurance
    • International Fuel Tax Association license (IFTA) -- proof that your company is paying those fuel taxes
    • Scale ticket -- remember the ticket you got from the CAT scales? That thing.
    • Bill of lading -- record describing the cargo the truck is hauling, where it was loaded, and its final destination
    • Medical certification -- this is for truckers hauling greater weights or hazardous cargo; proves that you don't have seizures or aren't going to have a heart attack any moment, that sort of thing
    • Log book -- where you record who the shipper is, what time you left, if you stopped, where & when, etc.  All your movements.  You can't have driven for more than 11 hours at a time; you are required to stop and rest so you don't get fatigued and increase your risk of accidents.  If your company has an electronic log, they recommend you keep a duplicate paper log too.

Sample IFTA license, showing where you're allowed to drive your truck because your company has paid fuel taxes in those locations.
(Image from Iowa DOT

Sample log record showing what the truck driver did when while hauling this load.  You're not allowed to exceed 11 hours' driving time so you don't wind up too tired to drive safely.
(Image from Wikipedia)

  • If anything about any of these documents looks funny, you could get a fine.  If the weights come in too high, you could get a fine.  If the truck has a rust spot and the officer picks at it and finds there's a greater problem going on, you could get a fine.  If you look cross-eyed at the officer, you could get a fine. 
  • The fines are not small.  They can be $2,000 or more.  
  • From what I've gathered, it's usually the driver who has to pay these fines, not the company they drive for.  Plus, you get a citation on your CDL record.  Too many of those -- and it sounds like it doesn't take many before it's too many -- and your company could decide you're too much of a risk and give you the boot.  Not only does that put you out of a job, but you might also have a hard time finding somebody else willing to take you on.
  • There's also the time issue.  The time you're stopped at a weigh station, waiting to get weighed, getting weighed, being pulled over and getting inspected -- all that is lost travel time.  It means your cargo might arrive late at its destination if you don't find some way to make up for it.  Some janky entitled Target customer like me is going to be ticked off that her vacuum cleaner didn't arrive exactly on time because you got pulled over and inspected for having rust on your back bumper.  Janky customer yells at Target, Target yells at the trucking company, trucking company yells at you, and you get fired.
  • To hear truckers tell it, the chance of getting inspected is a total crapshoot, but if it happens, chances are that it won't be good.  Truck drivers hate being inspected, hate being told essentially that they're doing their job wrong, hate the time it takes, hate even risking getting inspected.  So a lot of truckers will do what they can to avoid weigh stations.

Avoiding Weigh Stations

  • Truckers call weigh stations "coops" because they look about as small and not-sturdy as chicken coops.  There's a site called coopsareopen.com that tells you all sorts of stuff about the weigh stations in each state -- where they're located, how much the toll roads charge, where the cops lie in wait to look for speeders, etc.  If you pay to join, you can find out which weigh stations are open and which aren't, and what route to take if you want to dodge the weigh station entirely.

Typical Coopsareopen map, showing the major highways in each state -- this happens to be Illinois -- with red dots indicating the presence of weigh stations.  You have to pay extra to find out if they're open or not. 
(Map from Coopsareopen)

  • This is very valuable information because not having to stop or even slow down to get weighed saves you time. Avoiding open weigh stations also dramatically reduces the chances you could get flagged for an inspection.
  • Some truckers who know they're over weight but can't fix that problem will take another route to avoid weigh stations.  If they know their company's equipment is shoddy and won't get it fixed, they'll avoid the weigh stations.  A few of them do it just because they hate cops (and yes, some truckers still call the cops "smokey" or "the bear"). 
  • Avoiding weigh stations is so common in some parts of the country -- there are certain highways in Texas where it's really easy to avoid highway weigh stations by driving on surface bypass roads -- that those communities are trying to figure out how to pass legislation to keep truckers from doing this.

From the Officer's Point of View

  • All this is from the trucker's point of view.  They're the ones talking online the most about weigh stations and how they work and what to do while you're going through them, etc.  The police don't say very much, publicly, about that sort of thing.  So there's some guesswork about what they're thinking.
  • But I did find one page that's written from a police officer's point of view.  It tells local police officers not to be intimidated by the "big rigs."  It says they can't afford to be afraid to pull over the commercial trucks when necessary because they may be hauling illegal drugs, or smuggling some contraband, or involved in human trafficking.
  • It's also happened that trucks that have stopped at rest stops near the border crossing will have smugglers stash narcotics or other illegal stuff on the truck without the drivers' knowledge.  Occasionally, smugglers will force drivers to carry stuff for them, on threat of violence.
  • So, this police site tells officers, when you stop a big rig to inspect it, you may possibly be preventing two crimes, one intentional and one not.

State police cruiser having stopped a semi-truck on the highway.
(Photo from Police Mag

  • The site gets into detail about things to look for, and it lists a pretty wide range of stuff.  But ultimately it comes down to one thing: does anything look suspicious?  Are there cross-outs on the bill of lading, or hand-written notes on it?  Do any of the documents look less than official?  Are there any unauthorized passengers?  Does anything about the truck itself look less than official?
  • This goal of possibly uncovering truly illegal activity might be the real reason why they're so anal & picky about the placards on the side of the truck, or rust on the bumper, or whatever.  They might be thinking, hey, this could be a sign that this trucker's not legit, or the stuff he's hauling is illegal.
  • The big tip-off, they say, is how the trucker looks and is acting.  Here are some tips they describe:
Is the driver nervous? Is he sweating? Is he rubbing the back of his neck? Did he just urinate on himself when asked what his shipment was? (It happens.)  Several years ago a large cash seizure was made from a tractor-trailer on Thanksgiving Day. The big rig was being operated by someone who didn't have a commercial driver license (CDL), and was wearing Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, flip flops, and multiple gold chains. Other than the big indicator of not having a CDL, the huge indicator was the fact that the driver did not look, dress, or act like a trucker. Just as you do when you're out stopping cars for drug interdiction, ask yourself, does the story match the person?

Understand that most truckers are hardworking souls just trying to make a living, but they do commit traffic infractions, and some are involved in criminal activity. (from Police Mag)
  • This is fairly typical probable cause-type stuff, with exhortations to be on the lookout for any indicators that all is not as it should be.


But Does It Work?

  • So there's no concerted, let's-sweep-all-semis-from-here-to-Chicago-for weapons, but that might violate a constitutional amendment or two, and various other laws about search & seizure.  What the police can do is pull over or ask to inspect a truck that has apparently violated some rule or other.
  • This doesn't seem like a very reliable way of catching seriously bad stuff.  The potential for someone to sneak by without being caught seems pretty great.
  • On the other hand, the police have caught criminals on their way to doing some pretty nefarious things, and the criminals did give themselves away.  Here are a few examples:
Oct 11, 2015, El Reno, OK -- An Arizona truck driver was pulled over for swerving and weaving while driving. He said he was exhausted from driving all the way to Georgia to help his girlfriend move. So the police suggested he pull over to take a nap.
"Then, out of nowhere, Vasconcelos told authorities he wasn't a criminal and they could check his truck if they wanted to."
Deputies figured they'd better take him up on that, so they searched his truck. They found a loaded pistol on the front seat, and a large metal box forced into the mechanism of the engine which contained $3 million worth of heroin. (KFOR News channel 4)
  • Here's another example:
June 21, 2016,  New York City -- Police pulled over this vehicle as it was about to enter the Holland tunnel because it had a cracked windshield.

(NY Post

Once pulled over, the officer noticed a pistol on the front seat and asked the driver to exit the vehicle. He discovered that, in addition to the pistol in plain view, the driver had been literally sitting on a loaded .45. Further searching found a cache of weapons including an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, 4 semiautomatic handguns, multiple ammunition clips totaling 2,000 rounds, including one labeled "Merica."
The driver and his friend traveling with him said they were on their way to a heroin hotel in NYC to rescue his daughter who was hooked on heroin, and any other addict who wanted to be rescued. (NY Post)
  • So, no terrorism connections here, but a pretty obvious indicator that something less than legal might be about to happen.

The Upshot

  • So there's nothing about the weigh stations that is specifically scanning the cargo of a locked truck to see if it's carrying weapons or explosives or anything like that.
  • But what does seem to be going on is the DOT officers who operate the stations and the state and local police who patrol the highways are keeping their eyes open for any indicators that there might be something shady in the back of that truck -- and that could be anything from weapons to drugs to people, and in one case, rotten food.  Most often, if there's something illegal in the truck, it's drugs.
  • So the truckers might absolutely hate and despise weigh stations for the way they can wreck their run and possibly their jobs.  But it seems we do need somebody keeping an eye on things, for that rare exception when somebody really is doing something terrible and should be stopped.

Bonus material: Here's a trucker story posted on Reddit:

My Dad is a truck driver and he likes to tell a story about a Keebler cookie driver who was getting teased on the CB once: he said that the other drivers kept asking him questions, like "Do elves really make the cookies?" And "Are you an elf?" And "How tall are you, anyway?" Dad says this truck driver let the good natured ribbing go on for a while, and then he said, in a deep voice, "Listen, I only drive this truck for the paycheck. I don't ask any questions. I just back the truck up to the tree, and they fill it."

(Photo posted at Whiting Door)

Howstuffworks: Weigh Stations
What Are Truck Weigh Stations For?
How Do You Go Through a Weigh Station?
So Many Miles: Scales and Weigh Stations
Truckers Avoid Weigh Statsion by Dodging the Scales
Coops Are Open
Trucking Industry Forum: Dodging Scales
OTR Pro Trucker: Trucks and Drug Smuggling, a Dangerous Combination
Cleveland Plain Dealer: State Troopers Pull Over Truckloads of Rotten Food
NY Post: 3 arrested with loaded guns, body armor at holland tunnel
Florida Highway Patrol: 2013 Trucking Manual
Washington State Dept of Licensing: Commercial Driver Guide
Illinois Standard for Overweight Trucks
KFOR: Man Tells Police to Search His Truck, More than $3 Million Woth of Drugs Recovered
Police Mag: Stopping Big Rigs
Land Line: "You Don't Mind if I Look Inside Your Truck, Do You?"
Trucking Truth: Staying Alert and Fit to Drive
San Diego Tribune Forum: $3.59 Million to Haul Cargo of Illegal Immigrants
Life as a Trucker: Operating Illegally upon Owner's Request
Life as a Trucker: Crazy Trucker Stories
FBI Archives: Inside Cargo Theft
WBUR Here & Now: Trucking Companies Try to Prevent Contraband Cargo
Trucking Truth: Should Drivers be Blamed if Criminals of Shippers Put Illegal Cargo in Their Trailers?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Apple #734: To the Bernie or Busters Who Plan to Not Vote

I'm breaking from my usual M.O. to deliver what I think is an important public service message.

To those of you who ardently supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary campaign, kudos to you for turning out, for making your voices heard, to surprising people all around the country with your will to carry on.  Now that your candidate did not make the final cut -- and yes, I've seen the reports about the dealings of the DNC; welcome to politics -- many of you are saying, Screw it, this country's politics are rigged, I'm not voting for either of those corporate shills [or insert other insult here], I'm not voting for anybody, I'm staying home.

My response to you is, really?  That's your revolution?  The guy who lit the fire in you didn't achieve his first goal, and so now you're giving up?  Did you only believe the things he said because it was Bernie who said them, or did you believe the things he said period?  Did you agree with him about the need for reform, about the need to do something about the increasing gulf between the 1% and the rest of the country, about campaign finance reform, actually addressing climate change and energy production?

If did agree with all that, and you're going to stay home and not vote, then it must be you sure change your mind in a hurry, or else you give up way too easily.

You showed up for this, how hard could it be to show up at your polling place and cast a ballot?
(Photo by Benjamin Kerensa on Flickr)

The contest for the President of the United States will not be the only item on your ballot come November.  Depending on where you live, there will be races for Senate seats, or House of Representative seats, or representatives in your state government.  There may be local initiatives about how your schools are funded, or your libraries, or your police and fire department.  By staying home, you are saying none of those things matter.

If you think those local contests don't matter, pay attention to how you are treated the next time you go to renew your driver's license.  The next time you go to your public library.  The next time you pick your kid up from school.  The next time you turn on the water faucet in your kitchen sink.  Then tell me that local politics don't matter.

Water from a faucet in a Flint hospital, October 16 2015.
(Photo by Joyce Zhu, sourced from Common Dreams)

Maybe you have decided to not vote because you don't want to support a candidate you disagree with.  OK, that might sound high and mighty, but in reality, by not voting, you are letting somebody else decide for you.  Hasn't Bernie's campaign been all about taking control, using your voice, making sure you're heard?  And now you're just going to drop that whole idea because you didn't get your way in this one race this one time?  You are going to be the one to silence yourself?

People fought for centuries for the right to vote.  If you are a woman or a minority, those who came before you sure as hell fought two and three and ten times as hard for that right.  In some parts of this country, people still have to fight to be allowed to cast a ballot.  And you, because your feelings are hurt, are going to stay home?

How would Bernie have become a Senator and gotten the chance to speak up as he did if people had stayed home and not voted for him?

Maybe your response is, Well, the Democratic machine stole the nomination from Bernie and gave it to Hillary, they just do whatever they want, so what difference does it make how I vote in anything?  To that I say, that's sour grapes bullshit.  It's true, the machine of politics is not a white-glove business.  Scores of TV shows -- House of Cards, Scandal, The Good Wife, etc. -- have been telling us this for years.  But another truth about how politics works is that the fewer people involved, the easier it is to mess with it.  The more people who vote, the more people who actively participate, ask hard questions, investigate what happens and how it happens, the harder it is for others to get away with crap.

If you're so convinced that it's all nefarious back-room dealings that are doing you wrong, then you are doing exactly the wrong thing by throwing up your hands and walking away.  The best way to respond to double-dealing is to stay in the game and make sure it doesn't happen again. In fact, according to this article from the FiveThirtyEight, by showing up to vote in those little elections, or by voting in those smaller down-ballot contests, you might actually be sticking it to the DNC.

I'm not going to tell you which presidential candidate to vote for.  You can vote for your mom if you want to.  (Literally, you can vote for your mom.)  There are all sorts of arguments people make about how a vote for this candidate is really a vote for that candidate, or my vote is going to be canceled out by this other person's vote--blah blah blah, talk to the hand.  The important thing is that you vote.  All those Trump supporters turned out and voted, and look what happened. 

You have the right not to vote, of course. That is a choice you can exercise.  But keep in mind that if you don't vote, if you don't participate, then you are guaranteed to get back exactly what you put in, which is nothing.

There's a lot of time between now and November, so you've got a lot of time to think.  In these coming months, ask yourselves this: was Bernie's revolution about just one man, or was it about something bigger than that?

If you think it was about something bigger, imagine what change you can bring if you vote for candidates and issues that affect your neighborhood streets, your city schools, your state educational system.

Maybe you could still have your revolution.

See all the people in this photo?  They are the reason Bernie got heard for as long and as often as he did.  They -- you -- are the people with the power, whether you know it or not.
(Photo from Wikimedia)

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See also Voting

Monday, July 11, 2016

Apple #733: Zika Bites

There's been so much going on in the news lately -- a lot of it distressing.  I've been trying to come up with a way to respond to that in the context of the Daily Apple, and I have obviously failed.  I'm not sure how I can give some sort of positive message in response to all these people being shot for various reasons, without sounding all Polyanna-ish, and without saying something you haven't already seen 9,000 times elsewhere.  Just know that your Apple Lady is cogitating on all these events and looking for some way to be helpful.

In the meantime, I know one thing I can do that is useful, and that is to find out about Zika mosquito bites.  (I am cringing even as I type this, knowing that people are dying from horrific gunshot wounds and here I am talking about mosquito bites.  But it's all I've got at the moment, and I have to remind myself that it is more important to contribute something than to do nothing.)

So, my question is, when you've been bitten by a mosquito, can you tell if you've gotten a Zika bite?

The Aedes aegypti is the primary vector -- thing that transmits -- the Zika virus.  Only the females sting, so it seems that we're safe from over half the total population of mosquitoes. The trouble is, the Aedes aegypti are extremely common in all sorts of places around the world.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons via The Verge)

  • No.  Bites from a mosquito infected with the Zika virus look and act the same as bites from any other mosquito.
  • You might suspect you've got the Zika if you've got a mosquito bite and you also have
    • a low fever, less than 102 degrees
    • itchy pink rash
    • bloodshot eyes resembling pink eye
    • sensitivity to light
    • headaches
    • joint pains 

This is what the rash from Zika looks like.
(Photo from Wikipedia)

  • But those symptoms can seem like something else, or there may be only a few present, or you may have been bitten by a Zika mosquito and you could have no symptoms of the virus at all.  In fact, 4 of 5 people who've been bitten by a Zika mosquito do not show any symptoms.
  • The only way to know for sure if you've gotten a Zika bite is to have a blood or urine sample tested within two weeks.  But if you have no symptoms, you have no reason to think you'd need a test done, so you may never know if you've gotten a Zika bite.


  • You may be thinking, if all the thing does to me is make me feel like I have the flu for a week or so, or maybe I feel nothing at all, then what's the big deal?  Who cares whether I get the Zika or not?
  • Because fetuses as young as 19 weeks old whose mothers become infected with the Zika can suffer a very rare type of brain damage that is so severe, their brains stop growing and so do their skulls.  Not only are they born with very small heads, but often the nerves that connect with the eyes and ears do not work properly, they may experience frequent or constant seizures, and they may be unable to move their arms and legs properly.
  • This condition is called microcephaly (very small head). There is no cure. 
  • If a pregnant woman gets the Zika, how likely is it that her unborn child will get the microcephaly?  Experts aren't sure.  Right now, their guesses are anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of pregnancies with Zika resulting in microcephaly. 

This is Sophia. She is 2 weeks old and she has microcephaly. She's having a nap before her physical therapy session at a hospital in Brazil.
(Photo by Felipe Dana from the AP, sourced from Stat)

  • Sometimes the babies of Zika-infected mothers are born with other types of brain defects including Guillain-Barre syndrome. In this lovely scenario, a baby's immune system will attack its nerves that control muscle movement, pain, temperature, and touch. Results can range from persistent tingling to loss of movement to paralysis and difficulty breathing.  It is possible to recover from this syndrome, but it is not fun and for babies it can be very dangerous.
  • If you're a man, you should care because it's possible you could transmit the virus sexually.  More often, the virus is transmitted by mosquito bites, but somewhere around 10% of cases have been transmitted through sexual contact.  Vaginal and anal sex are more likely sources of transmission than oral, but transmission by oral sex is still possible.
  • There is no vaccine for the virus, no way to stop its activity once its infected someone.  If you've got the Zika, the only thing to do is let it run its course.
  • The good news is that if a woman has had the Zika and recovered, and the virus has left her bloodstream, and then she gets pregnant, the baby will not be affected.  She will have developed an immunity to the virus.


  • Even though it is beneficial to be immune to the Zika virus, researchers and medical professionals certainly do not want people going around trying to infect themselves so they become immune.  There have been too few cases for researchers to be certain you might not be exposing yourself to some as-yet-unknown risk. Making yourself sick on purpose is just asking for trouble.
  • The best way to protect yourself against the Zika is to
    • try to avoid getting it in the first place
    • try to avoid passing it on if you've got it
  • Avoiding getting the Zika means
    • Controlling mosquito populations outside your house.
    • Don't give them a place to breed. Since mosquitoes lay eggs in or near shallow water, make sure you don't have places where standing water can develop and be accessible to mosquitoes.  This means
      • Get rid of or cover things like birdbaths, flowerpots, old buckets or trash cans, etc.
      • Tightly cover water barrels
      • If a container cannot have a lid, cover it with wire mesh with holes smaller than a mosquito. 

This is just the sort of environment mosquitoes love. Standing water, a perfect place to lay their eggs.
(Photo by Sam Hames on Flickr)

    • They also tend to hang out in dark, humid places. Spray outdoor insect spray in likely areas, such as under patio furniture, under a deck, behind the garage, etc. 
    • Controlling mosquito activity inside your home
    • Install or repair screens on windows
    • Use air conditioning if possible
    • Drape a mosquito net over your bed 
    • Protecting your person from mosquito bites
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
    • The above ingredients are listed in order of effectiveness (DEET is the most effective).   
    • * = don't use on children younger than 3 years old
    • Don't use insect repellent at all on babies younger than 2 months old. For them, make sure their clothing covers all exposed skin and keep their cribs and strollers covered with mosquito netting.
  • Avoiding transmitting the Zika means
    • For 3 weeks after having been in an area where the Zika virus has been identified,
    • Practicing safe sex by using condoms.
    • Or don't have sex at all. 
    • Following the steps listed above to control mosquitoes and to try to keep from being bitten and thus infecting a mosquito who could pass the virus on to someone else.
  • Where have Zika cases been identified?
    • This information changes frequently.  As of this writing, areas range from Mexico and Central and South America, to Egypt and several countries in Africa, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, and several countries in Southeast Asia.
    • It has recently also been identified in most states in the US.  Utah is the first state to have seen a fatality from Zika.



  • The Zika virus has been known to exist since the 1940s when it was first isolated from a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest in Uganda -- hence the name. 
    • (Originally it was spelled Ziika. The word means "overgrown.")
  • The virus was first identified in a human in the 1950s.
  • It is in the same family of viruses as dengue fever and West Nile and some 60 or so other viruses.
  • Incidence was restricted mainly to Africa and tropical parts of Asia.  But in recent years, the virus has spread rapidly.
  • Reasons for the virus's rapid transmission may include
    • increased global travel
    • urbanization (more people moving into mosquito-rich areas)
    • climate change (more areas becoming warmer and friendlier to mosquitoes)
  • It seems that the number of microcephaly cases have risen because the number of Zika cases have risen to a correspondingly increased extent. 

(Image from the New England Journal of Medicine, sourced from Vox)

As the Wesley twins said, much to their own surprise, "Safety first."

Or as one infectious disease specialist who's been studying the virus said, "It's not a verbal exercise. It's people's lives. Babies' lives and welfare are at stake."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika Virus -- a multitude of resources here
The New York Times, Short Answers to Hard Questions About Zika Virus, June 24, 2016
Alana Romain, Romper, Does a Zika Mosquito Bite Look Different than Normal Mosquito Bites? [No] March 16, 2016
PBS Newshour, How many Zika-infected infants will develop microcephaly and other FAQs, May 20, 2016
World Health Organization (WHO), The history of Zika virus
The Verge, Climate change and urbanization are spurring outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, February 10, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Apple #732: Title IX History and Overview

I love Title IX.  Thanks to this law, there was a girls' softball team at my high school for which I could play.  We weren't very good because our school didn't put much money into softball as compared to, say, football or swimming, so our coaches were pretty much deer-in-the-headlights and so we sucked.  But at least I got to play.  Prior to Title IX, there wouldn't have been any such team.

Photo of a rally in support of Title IX held in 1979.  For a long time, the only context in which people talked about Title IX was women's sports. But it has affected way more than just athletics.
(Photo sourced from Women's Sports Foundation)

Title IX has emerged in the news over the past few years as the basis from which groups of college women are demanding that their schools get better at handling allegations of sexual assault on campus.  I say, more power to 'em, literally. When I was an undergrad, the prevailing attitude was, hey, you put a bunch of late-teens, early-twenties kids together and give them alcohol, of course women are going to get raped. What are you gonna do?  That attitude, in my opinion, is a reprehensible abdication of responsibility, and it has got to change.  Title IXers, for working to change this culture to make college campuses safer for everyone, I applaud you.

More recently still, Title IX is the policy behind which various governmental institutions are requiring that public bathrooms accommodate transgender people.  There's been a lot of outcry against this, and as far as I can tell, the primary argument is that pedophiles and perverts will use this license to wreak havoc on our innocent ones when they are perhaps most vulnerable and defenseless.   To this I say, if the problem is the pedophiles and the perverts, maybe we should be doing something about them, as opposed to discriminating against the transgender among us?

In short, there have been a lot of references to and invocations of Title IX in a variety of contexts.  Hearing it so often has made me wonder, Title 9 of what?  What's Title 8?  Where did this thing come from, and whom should I thank for making it a rule in this country that people have to abide by?

  • The person to thank, apparently, is Richard M. Nixon.
  • Title IX is one part of Public Law 92-318, which was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972.

Richard Nixon, signing something into law
(Photo sourced from Pinterest, which is not so reliable at providing provenance)

  • Another person to thank is Patsy Mink. She was Japanese-American, and a Congressional Representative from Hawaii, and she helped draft the language that would become Title IX, and she pushed for its passage.

At center: Patsy Mink, first Asian American and woman of color to serve in the US Congress, was a key force in the passage of what we now call Title IX.
(Photo sourced from the Women's Sports Foundation)

  • The law is broken up into parts-- well, Titles, then Parts, then Sections.  So if you wanted to refer to some major part of the bill, you might refer to it by the Title under which it is organized. 
  • The general purpose of the law was to amend various existing laws having to do with education, from elementary schools all the way through higher education, and including vocational education.  The goal was to expand opportunities to education to people of all backgrounds across the country.
  • More specifically, Public Law 92-318 set aside hundreds of millions of dollars -- literally -- in the form of grants or loans that could be applied for by all sorts of people.  In many cases provisions for these grants were already in place but this law expanded the range of people who could apply, or re-upped the funding, or increased the amount of funding.  

 TITLES I through VII

  • Most of the titles within the law dealt with this funding in support of new or increased educational opportunities.
  • Grants or loans were funded or expanded upon for all sorts of educational purposes, including
    • nurses who wanted to go to college
    • veterans of Vietnam (the law says "Indochina") and Korea who wanted to go to college
    • students in vocational education schools
    • people who wanted to study the causes of environmental pollution
    • training for people who want to become librarians, or resources to be purchased by libraries
    • fellowships and internships for people who want to teach at the higher education level
    • students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who want to go to college
    • tutors of educationally disadvantaged children
    • training of teachers, teachers' aides, and teachers of migrant children
    • schools that serve Native American (the law says "American Indian") children, particularly those with special education needs, and also schools that provide education to adult Native Americans 
    • the study and teaching of the ethnic heritages of all sorts of ethnic groups in the country, along with bilingual assistance where appropriate
    • the development of educational TV programs for children (Sesame Street started in 1969, but this funding certainly would have supported its continuation)
    • people who want to go to school to pursue a career in public service 
    • work-study and community service programs
    • undergraduates who want to study a foreign language or travel to a foreign country for educational purposes
    • new or financially struggling undergraduate or community colleges that are trying to improve or expand their teaching staff
    • the construction of new undergraduate, community, and technical colleges 
    • the construction or rebuilding of schools in major disaster areas 
  • It also established the Student Loan Marketing Association, a private corporation funded with an initial $5M in government start-up money, that would serve as the marketplace for student loans insured by the government. This made loans to would-be college students much easier to come by because before this Association -- what we now call Sallie Mae, and what many people curse up and down and left and right -- it was really difficult to get a loan to pay for college because banks saw it as a bad risk. 
  • It encouraged the reform of postsecondary education so the schools would be run in a more cost-effective manner, the retention of more members of faculty, and expansion into new areas of study such as communications.
  • It directed the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to conduct a full and complete investigation of youth camps around the country to determine to what extent any injuries that happen to children there are preventable, and how could local laws be modified to improve safety. (Investigations of sexual abuse were not spelled out but in retrospect, one wishes it had been.)
  • So the law covered a boatload of expansions aimed at improving educational opportunities all over the place. 

TITLE VIII - No Money for Busing (almost there)

  • Title VIII seems out of keeping with the nature of the rest of the law.  This title specifically and categorically states that no funding whatsoever could be used to pay for busing students to another district in support of desegregation.  
    • It's pretty remarkable how the language of the law in this title changes to No all over the place, where before it had been a lot of "shall".

The debate about whether children should be bused to different schools to counteract segregation was hotly contested across the country. Here is one protest against forced busing in Boston.  Looks familiar, doesn't it?
(Photo sourced from U.S. History in Context)

  • We don't normally think of Nixon as a champion of the rights of the disadvantaged, but he was royally ticked off about this part of the law.  When he signed the bill into law, he didn't talk about all the great things the law was doing; instead, he listed all the stuff he'd asked Congress to do but they hadn't.  He said, 
  • In the amendments dealing with the busing of public school children, however, this measure is most obviously deficient. Had these disappointing measures alone come to this office--detached from the higher education reforms--they would have been the subject of an immediate veto.  
  • We asked the Congress to draw up new uniform national desegregation standards for all school districts--South, North, East, and West. The Congress determined to allow the existing inequities and injustices to remain.
  • We asked the Congress to provide uniform guidance to Federal judges so that court-ordered busing to integrate public school systems would be used only as a last--never a first--resort. The Congress apparently declines to provide such guidance. 
  • He went on like this, with more "We asked the Congress"es followed by statements saying, They didn't do it.  He finished his remarks with this:
  • Confronted with one of the burning social issues of the past decade, and an unequivocal call for action from the vast majority of the American people, the 92d Congress has apparently determined that the better part of valor is to dump the matter into the lap of the 93d. Not in the course of this Administration has there been a more manifest Congressional retreat from an urgent call for responsibility.
  • End of remarks. He might as well have done a mic drop.

TITLE IX - Here we are

  • In the midst of all this stuff about what shall be funded and how much should this program get and how shall it be administered is the part you've all been waiting for, "TITLE IX -- Prohibition of Sex Discrimination," and it begins
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
  • That's it.
  • Among page after page of language about how much money should go to this group and that group, and how it should be awarded, and how it should be insured, and what administrative bodies should be created to carry out this and that provision -- then appears this one sentence that may have changed more lives for more generations than all the rest of it put together.
  • There are some exceptions (schools with a religious affiliation, schools with longstanding single-sex admissions) and there have been some amendments that add a few more exceptions (fraternities and sororities, father-son or mother-daughter activities).
  • There's also a bit that says the same thing about the blind -- no discrimination by schools that receive federal money. Why and how this provision got put under a provision having to do with sex discrimination, I cannot explain.
  • But out of that one sentence, here are just some of the things that have come about:
  • Athletics -- girls in high school varsity athletics
      • 1971: 295,000
      • 2001: 2.8 million, or 41.5% of all varsity athletes
  • Athletics -- women in college athletics
      • 1966: 16,000
      • 2001: 150,000, or 43% of all college athletes
  • Academics -- women earning law degrees
      • 1972: 7% women
      • 1997: 44% women
  • Academics -- women earning medical degrees
      • 1972: 9% women
      • 1997: 41% women
  • Academics -- pregnant girls and women
      • 1972: usually expelled from school
      • post-Title IX: schools are not allowed to expel pregnant girls and women, and if they do provide separate classes for expecting mothers, participation must be voluntary and the programs must provide comparable education
  • Academics -- programs of study
      • 1972: girls encouraged to become wives, mothers, secretaries, nurses, or teachers, while boys were encouraged to study math and science and "harder" subjects
      • post-Title IX: significant gender disparity still exists, but the number of girls taking upper-level math and science classes is on the rise, and schools are launching concerted efforts to attract girls and women to STEM courses and programs of study.
  • Academics -- standardized testing
      • 1972: girls consistently scored lower than boys
      • post-Title IX: gender disparity still exists, but if a standardized test results in consistently lower scores for members of one sex, it can be challenged as unlawful.
  • Sexual harassment in schools
      • 1972: for those women who did go to college, if they were harassed (or perhaps I should say when they were harassed) they could expect little or no redress from the authorities at their school
      • post-Title IX: the Supreme Court ruled that schools and colleges are required to prevent and respond to harassment against girls and women, regardless of whether that objectionable behavior is done by peers, teachers, or administrators. It is also under this aegis that women are seeking to compel colleges and universities to curtail and punish campus rape.
  • Also springing from Title IX is the debate about which bathrooms transgender people should be allowed to use. 
      • (For one discussion of some of the complexities of this issue, see Jeannie Suk's opinion piece from The New Yorker; there are some elements that I for one had not considered. I do think it is worth underscoring this comment: "The common denominator in all of these scenarios is fear of attacks and harassment carried out by males—not fear of transgender people.")
      • It is too early to say how this debate will be resolved, but I think the fact that we are having this debate at all is a hopeful sign.
  • Girls and women still face gender disparity in all sorts of areas -- in the classroom, in hiring, in compensation, in what men say to women online or in person, in how politicians respond to their questions, and on and on.  
  • But we have made great progress thanks to Title IX.  Without Title IX, I probably wouldn't have an undergraduate and two graduate degrees. I might have had just as much curiosity, but not much of a venue where I could exercise it. I probably wouldn't be typing this right now.  Your Apple Lady probably would not exist.
  • And thanks to Title IX, we can continue to make more progress, to chip away at the institutional norms that bolster sexism and allow it to persist not just in education but throughout the entire lives of girls and women.
  • Thanks, Richard Nixon and Patsy Mink.

US Department of Education, Title IX and Sex Discrimination
The US Department of Justice, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Cornell Legal Information Institute, 20 US Code § 1681 - Sex
US GPO, Public Law 92-318 as enacted June 23, 1972
UC Santa Barbara, The American Presidency Project, Richard Nixon - Statement on Signing the Education Amendments of 1972, June 23, 1972
Title IX Info, History of Title IX
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Impact of Title IX
Athletic Scholarships.net, Bridging the Gender Gap: The Positive Effects of Title IX
Title IX Info, Ten Key Areas of Title IX
Jeannie Suk, The Transgender Bathroom Debate and the Looming Title IX Crisis, The New Yorker, May 24, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Apple #731: Prince and His Entourage

Like so many people, I've been rather stunned by the news of Prince's untimely death. I was never a huge fan, but the man had some serious songwriting skills, and he seemed about to embark on a new realm of creativity, and his music and style and persona were a huge part of the cultural landscape in my formative years.  People who are so famous, whose work and image and music and everything else are everywhere, you forget that they can do something so human as to die. It's kind of a shock.

(Photo from this Finnish news page)

Like so many people, I am remembering personal experiences when this man's music was the soundtrack. Dancing to "Purple Rain" with a crush-object who was on the track team. Recording "When Doves Cry" off the radio onto my tape recorder in my bedroom and trying to match his falsetto "Ooh-hoo"s and failing completely. A girl on my softball team listening to "Darling Nikki" on her headphones as we rode the van to an away game and cracking up and passing the headphones around because of how dirty the lyrics were. But my most vivid and complete Prince-related memory does not even involve him, but someone who impersonated him.

The real Prince and his band in 1982, from 1999
(Photo sourced from The Left Call)

My freshman year, our high school had a cover-band dance. You could get your friends together, dress up like some famous band, and then at the dance, pretend to be them and lip sync to a recording. One bunch of guys wore taped-up trash bags and they were Devo. A few stoner dudes were a rather disorganized Van Halen. A gaggle of popular girls was The Go-Gos. It was funny to see this person or that person you knew from your math class or wherever, all dressed up and acting the part, but kind of missing the mark and still obviously them.

But then the lights went out in the gym entirely, except for spotlights playing around the door, as if frantically searching for who might enter next.  A buzz of excitement swept through the crowd as everyone speculated about who it might be.  A hum of music picked up over the loudspeaker, and you could feel it thrumming through your body, and the anticipation built. The doors opened, and the spotlights picked out a crew of people, it was hard to make out who they were, there was lace and the flash of necklaces, there was a guy wearing scrubs -- was that David H from my Latin class? -- and he was holding out his hands to keep the crowd from pressing too close.  Excited murmurs went through the crowd. "It's Prince, that's Prince. I can't believe it, it's Prince."

Among the entourage was this skinny dark-haired guy wearing an improbable get-up of a long black shiny coat, white gloves, his hair in some kind of curly pompadour, and a black satin mask over his eyes. It wasn't really Prince, was it?  It sure as hell looked like him.  His crew were leading him to the stage, and it made no sense at all that he was masked and couldn't see a thing, but everyone was going NUTS.  People were screaming and losing their minds and this guy hadn't even reached the stage yet.  But when he did, wearing tight black pants and a white shirt with a huge collar unbuttoned to his navel, people went INSANE. His posse in that motley collection of lace, necklaces, underwear, and scrubs took up their posts at the keyboards and guitars, and they started to play. "Let's Go Crazy," I think it was, and that was exactly what everybody did.

Part of the real Prince's entourage/performance group always included several women who were either musicians, back-up singers, or dancers, or a combination thereof. Often they wore lacy or super-revealing or skin-tight outfits. Here they are performing in Syracuse in 1985.
(Photo from The Dawn Experience)

The guy at the center of all this was not, in fact, Prince.  It was Fran Fazzina, another guy from my Latin class who was of indeterminate race.  In my blindingly white high school, being anything other than white meant you were on the outside looking in.  He wasn't a stand-out in my Latin class in any way.  He didn't say much, didn't do especially well or poorly on our weekly tests, just showed up, did what he had to do, and left.

But after he was Prince, his world changed.  People high-fived him in the hall, they wanted to talk to him, they wanted to be around him.  I talked to him in Latin class and discovered he had a whiplash sense of humor lurking under there, and I couldn't keep up with his ironic wit.  I developed a crush on him.  I still remember the scent of his cologne.  He got invited to parties. There were rumors about parties at his house. People said his house, which was a two-story colonial, had an elevator going up the middle.

Google Fran's name now and what comes up is a poker player living in Los Angeles.  I have no idea if he's the same guy or not.  Interestingly, there are no photos of him.  Just as real-life Prince was very protective of his privacy, real-life Fran seems to be that way too.

But this guy only PRETENDING to be Prince got that kind of reaction.  Imagine what it must have been like for the actual, real and true Prince.

One of the best tributes I've read is from Paul Westerberg, of Replacements fame, whose career grew up alongside Prince's in Minneapolis. When a guy whose talent you admire says of a fellow musician the first time he saw him perform,

I was next to another musician, a couple other guys that were up-and-comers and that thought they were hot shit, and we were watching Prince. The guy turned to me and said, "I'm fucking embarrassed to be alive." And that's how I felt. He was so good. It was like, "What are we doing? This guy is, like, on a different planet than we are." It was showmanship, it was rock & roll, it was fun, it was great. (from Rolling Stone)
I've spent more time with Bob Dylan, and I've got to say that I was more in awe of Prince. (from Rolling Stone)

you know he was the real thing.

People were in awe of his talent, of his presence, of him.  They wanted to be around him, to get close to him and whatever magic he had.

I know that all celebrities have "people" but that seemed to be especially the case with Prince. Pretty much every news article about him mentions his "entourage."  "His people told TMZ he was battling the flu." "Prince's entourage will be questioned in investigation of his death." "In his final years his entourage was smaller than it had been at the height of his stardom. He had a couple of assistants, a manager and, of course, bodyguards. There wasn't a huge entourage of friends hanging around."

I think what made Fran-as-Prince's performance so successful was the presence of that entourage. When he was surrounded by a group of people (by the way, that's what entourage means, etymologically speaking, "surrounded by"), everyone wondered, who is that guy, that he either needs that many people to protect him, or that so many people just want to be around him?

I was going to do a whole thing about entourages, about other famous people and their entourages (Oprah Winfrey, Frank Sinatra, President Obama, Jesus), but I don't want to wander that far from the main subject, which is Prince himself.  One of the things I've been thinking about is what's it like to be a member of an entourage? Do you still feel like you have a personality of your own, or how much of yourself do you give over to this person whom you've dedicated yourself to surrounding?

It was like being around the biggest boss and icon all at the same time. Everyone who worked for him knew him and respected him; they all believed in him and worshipped him. He was just so capable, he was always right, and he really was. (anonymous assistant of Prince's, quoted in ENews)
[H]e had this smile, it's the smile that your dad or your teacher would give you. It was all you needed to say that you've done a good job. That would be enough. (Michael Kronick, Prince's memorabilia manager, quoted in ENews

But of course the corollary to that is, what's it like to be the focal-point of that entourage?  Are you able to retain your own personality, or how much of your true self becomes subsumed in this version of yourself that you've created and that other people are maintaining for you?  How exhausting is it to try to meet those expectations all day every day, even when you're supposed to be relaxing and out of the limelight?  How are you then able to pull it together and summon the enormous magic that works like mad in front of thousands of people?

The more famous he became, the further and further it would take him away from the person he was before he became famous. I am not sure if anyone really knew the real Prince, we all loved him, but I don't know how much we really knew him. (anonymous friend, quoted in ENews)

I was just watching this video, talking about the rainstorm the night of Superbowl 2007 when Prince performed, and how incredible it was that he was able not just to pull it off but to make it look like the whole thing was planned, part of his show, to be the consummate professional and entertain the hell out of everybody. If you missed the performance in 2007, or even if you did see it at the time, check this out. It's really quite impressive.

They're saying now that Prince was taking painkillers for years, as a way to help him deal with stage fright and crowds. Some people are saying this destroys their vision of him, or how could have been on drugs, he was a Jehovah's Witness.  I say, no one is immune to addiction.  And I say, however talented he may have been, the man was still human.  I say, God bless him for wanting to keep bringing it full-bore to people, even though it cost him more than most of us ever will ever know.

(Signed album owned by Corrie Stone-Fielder, sourced from Las Cruces Sun-News)

P.S. to David Bowie fans, "Heroes" was on his encore set-list at performances he gave this month.

If you want to read about other entourages & such
ENews, Inside Prince's Private World: The Man Behind the Legend from Those Who Knew Him
The Bert Show, What It's Like Working With Prince: A Former Member Of Prince's Entourage Calls In
Nozo, What is it like to be part of a famous person's entourage? [blue on black, really hard to read]
The Richest, Ridiculous Jobs of Celebrity Entourage Members
Mental Floss, 7 Entourages That Changed the World 
Online Etymology Dictionary, entourage
Celebuzz, Top 10 Worst Celebrity Entourages of the Decade
Wonderwall, Celebrity Cliques: The Stars' Real-Life Entourages
Daily Mirror, This massive entourage is what it takes to bring Barack Obama to Britain

Monday, March 21, 2016

Apple #730: White Rose Resistance

You may have seen the news recently that the hacker group calling itself Anonymous said they were going to hack Donald Trump. They released some basic personal information -- his cell phone number, Social Security number, and some other easy-to-find stuff -- and invited anyone who wanted to take a crack at hacking him or his businesses to do so.

In one part of their message, they said, "Many of you have said to yourself that if you were alive in Nazi Germany, then you would have done something, you would have resisted, like the White Rose Society resisted. Now is the time to prove that. The White Rose Society has risen again in the United States."

I never heard of the White Rose Society, so I was curious to know what it was.  I Googled it and, wow, quite the story.

The original White Rose group did not have a logo or an insignia; they were not that sophisticated. They called themselves "White Rose" for reasons that remain obscure.
(Photo from HD Wallpapers Fit)

  • It's been referred to as the White Rose Society, or the White Rose Resistance, or more accurately, simply as "White Rose." It was a small group of German medical students in their early 20s who got together in 1942 and 1943 and printed 6 pamphlets speaking against Hitler and Nazism and urging others to resist what had become a totalitarian regime.
  • This might not sound like such a big deal, but it was. Let me break down the details.
Hans Scholl (left) was 24, his sister Sophie was 21, and Christoph Probst, a mutual friend of both, was 22. Photo was taken in 1942 when the White Rose began.
(photo from the US Holocaust Museum Archives, sourced from the Jewish Virtual Library)
  • First, this happened in 1942. By this time, the Nazi regime was operating at full strength within Germany, as was the Gestapo (secret police).  They had clamped down on any kind of speech that was against the government in any way, shutting down newspapers, and rounding up and killing or sending off to concentration camps anyone who spoke out against the government.
  • People couldn't speak freely among friends or neighbors because if you spoke against the government in any way, the person you thought was your neighbor and trustworthy would rat you out to the Gestapo, and there you were getting beaten or jailed or sent away, etc.
  • Telephone calls could be listened in on at any time, mail could be opened and inspected, and your person could be searched at any time for any reason.
  • The Gestapo was keeping track of even the sale of stamps.  If anyone bought a whole bunch of stamps, that person got investigated by the Gestapo and depending on what they learned about how the stamps were used, that person got beat up or thrown in jail or sent off to a concentration camp or killed.  The same was true about purchases of a lot of paper.  And Envelopes. And printing presses, of course.
  • It was in the midst of this thoroughly repressive situation that this group of students started meeting and talking together.  There were only about 4 or 5 of them, all medical students at the University of Munich, and at first they talked about music, or literature, and philosophy -- especially philosophy.  Soon they ventured into discussing politics with each other, which would have been a rare treat to be able to do such a thing and feel safe.
  • In the early years of the war, the students were like many of their fellow Germans, supportive of their government, willing to participate and do what they could for the cause of their country. Some of these young medical students had even been members the Hitler Youth. The leaders of this small group were:
    • Hans Scholl, 24
    • Alex Schmorell, 25
    • Jürgen Wittenstein, 23
    • Sophie Scholl - Hans' sister, 21

Alex Schmorell, one of the leaders and founding members of the White Rose, was 25.
(Photo from the Holocaust Research Project)

Jürgen Wittenstein had been about to leave Germany in 1939 but instead drove two stranded Jewish teenagers to Berlin in the hope that, from there, they could leave the country safely.
(Photo from Spartacus Educational)

  • After having lived through four years of the government's increasingly repressive and brutal tactics, these medical students were justifiably disturbed. Schmorell and Wittenstein attended the very popular lectures of their university's philosophy teacher, Kurt Huber, and they took his teachings very much to heart.  So they decided to do something to resist.
  • In June of 1942, Hans and Alex wrote a leaflet, which they planned to be the first of many, and which they called "Leaflet [or leaves] of the White Rose."  
  • They went to their philosophy teacher, Kurt Huber, for advice in writing the pamphlet. At first he thought it would do no good except to risk their necks, but in the end he decided to help.  He advised them on the wording of the leaflets and talked with them at length about what they wanted to accomplish, challenging them and making sure they were aware of the risks they were taking.

Kurt Huber had had diphtheria when he was young and emergency surgery had cut his throat and left him with difficulty in speaking, a limp, and a tremor in his hands that only subsided when he played the piano. His students said they did not notice his impairments at all when he lectured, his speeches were so learned and absorbing.
(Photo from the Holocaust Research Project)

Another photo of Huber, this from 1941.  He was 48 when this photo was taken.
(Photo from Spartacus Educational)
  • Some websites suggest Huber was consulted very early on in the group's formation, while others say he did not get involved until later. Either way, it seems clear that though he was involved, the group was not his idea but that of his students'.
  • The first leaflet was a few paragraphs long, invoking the ideas of philosophers such as Goethe and Schiller and Aristotle, and encouraging readers of the pamphlet to resist.
  • Excerpts from this first pamphlet will give a sense of the atmosphere of the time:
If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, . . . if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall.

[. . . ] every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism. Offer passive resistance - resistance - wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late. . . .

Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure. [. . . ]

Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.
This is what the leaflet looked like, page 1 of 2. Just a piece of paper with a bunch of words typed on it. Nothing fancy. But those words are highly charged and dangerous. Across the top it reads, "Leaflet of the White Rose I."
(Photo sourced from Flashbak)

  • Hans and Alex made only about 100 copies of the leaflet, typing each one on a typewriter. They left them in telephone boxes, mailed them to students and professors across Germany, and carried them by train to other towns in the country and left them there.
  • I'm not sure who said this, but it was apparently one of the members of the White Rose:
"Some of us traveled in civilian clothing, hoping for the best, some with forged travel orders, I myself used false identification papers (my cousin's with whom I shared a certain resemblance). We left the briefcases which contained the leaflets in a different compartment, for luggage was routinely searched. Mostly, however, leaflets were taken by female students who were not subject to such scrutiny."

  • 35 of the first set of pamphlets wound up in the hands of the Gestapo.  But the rest reached their intended recipients, some as far away as Austria.  And though the Gestapo knew about the leaflets, they could not figure out who was producing them.
  • Hans' sister Sophie enrolled in the University of Munich, also as a medical student, shortly after the first pamphlet was distributed.  She found out about the White Rose group and wanted to join.  At first her brother wouldn't allow her to because of the danger, but she persisted. Another friend of theirs, Christoph Probst, also joined at this time.
  • They wrote and distributed three more leaflets.  Sophie and other young women helped distribute them, since the Gestapo tended not to search women as often as they did men.
  • Here are more excerpts. 
  • Leaflet Two: 

By this time the group had got hold of a duplicating machine -- this one, to be exact.  It had to be cranked by hand, which they did at night when people were sleeping.
(Photo from the Holocaust Research Project)

If at the start, this cancerous growth in the nation was not particularly noticeable, it was only because there were still enough forces at work that operated for the good, so that it was kept under control. As it grew larger, however, and finally in an ultimate spurt of growth attained ruling power, the tumor broke open, as it were, and infected the whole body.

[. . . ] Now the end is at hand. Now it is our task to find one another again, to spread information from person to person, to keep a steady purpose, and to allow ourselves no rest until the last man in persuaded of the urgent need of his struggle against this system.

[. . . ] only by way of example do we want to cite the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. For Jews, too, are human beings.

  • Leaflet Three:

The top of it says it's a Leaflet of the White Rose, III, followed by "Salus publica suprema lex" -- the public good is the supreme law.
(Photo from the Holocaust Research Project)

our present "state" is the dictatorship of evil. "Oh, we've known that for a long time," I hear you object, "and it isn't necessary to bring that to our attention again." But, I ask you, if you know that, why do you not bestir yourselves, why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another?
[. . . ] And now every convinced opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can fight against the present "state" in the most effective way:

Sabotage in armament plants and war industries, sabotage at all gatherings, rallies, public ceremonies, and organizations of the National Socialist Party. Sabotage in all the areas of science and scholarship which further the continuation of the war - whether in universities, technical schools, laboratories, research institutions, or technical bureaus. Sabotage in all publications, all newspapers, that are in the pay of the "government" and that defend its ideology and aid in disseminating the brown lie.

  •  Leaflet Four:
Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the foul-smelling maw of Hell, and his might is at bottom accursed.
[. . . ] We wish expressly to point out that the White Rose is not in the pay of any foreign power. Though we know that National Socialist power must be broken by military means, we are trying to achieve a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit.
[. . . ] To set you at rest, we add that the addresses of the readers of the White Rose are not recorded in writing. They were picked at random from directories.
We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!

  • After they wrote and distributed these 4 pamphlets, the students reached the end of the school term. The university decided to send its medical/military students to the Russian front to give them experience with treating patients in field hospitals.
  • While at the Russian front, the medical students witnessed the fighting conditions, saw the Warsaw Ghetto, saw a group of naked Jews being shot in an open pit, saw Ukrainian soldiers being "hired" to shoot whoever was pointed at for the price of a pack of cigarettes, and you know, just the basic horror show that is war, and this war in particular.
  •  Also, another medical student, Willi Graf, met the Scholls and became their friend and, once back at school, joined the White Rose.

Willi Graf, another member of the White Rose, was 25.
(Photo from the Holocaust Research Project)

  • When they got back to school in Munich in the fall, they distributed more pamphlets, now with the goal to find more students at more universities to join their cause. Graf was particularly involved in trying to recruit more members from beyond Munich.
  • In addition to writing and distributing more leaflets, Hans, Alex, and Will also painted graffiti on buildings throughout Munich, which shouted things like 
    • Freedom! 
    • Down with Hitler!
    • Hitler is a Mass Murderer!
    • and they painted Swastikas with great big cross-outs
  • Again, these things might seem tame to us now, but again, it was extremely dangerous.  To paint these things on the walls, one had to do this in public, with the possibility that anyone looking could see and report the matter. The buildings they chose were along a very busy street in the middle of Munich, where the graffiti would be sure to be seen -- and where they might very easily have been seen putting it there.  

The Sixth Leaflet. The title is translated, "A German leaflet." It was much fancier, and they had managed to make somewhere between 1500 and 1800 copies of it.
(Sourced from Canadians in Afghanistan)

  • The sixth leaflet was the last one written. Hans and Sophie took copies of it to the university in a big suitcase, and they left stacks of them in the hallways for students to find when they came out of class. They still had some left, so Sophie went up to the top floor and, looking down the stairwell atrium, flung them into the air.
  • The custodian, Jakob Schmid, saw this and called the police. Hans and Sophie were arrested by the Gestapo, and so were the other members of the group.
  • The members of the White Rose were tried -- if you can call it a trial.  A special court, of the kind called "the People's Court" -- I am not kidding -- was convened to hear this case.  It was run by Berlin judge Roland Freiser, who was not so much a judge as a screaming prosecutor.

"Judge" Roland Freiser, center, at the People's Court in Germany
(Photo from the Holocaust Research Project)

  • Freiser shouted abuse at the accused, and said he was baffled how young people from such good families could turn out so bad, how could their minds have gotten so warped, etc.  Their defense attorney was useless, saying only "Let justice be done."
  • Sophie stood up and said, "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare to express themselves as we did."

The Gestapo's photos of Sophie Scholl, taken February 18, 1943, upon her arrest.
(Photo sourced from Flashbak)

  • After 4 hours, the leaders of the group were convicted and sentenced to death.  Sophie was led to the guillotine first.  (Ladies first? WTH?)
  • "A witness described Sophie as unflinching as she walked to her death. The executioner also remarked that he had never seen someone meet the end of life as courageously as she did."
  • Christoph Probst, closest friend of Hans and Sophie, with a wife and three children, and who had helped edit and distribute the leaflets, was next.  He shouted, "We will see each other in a few minutes!" before he was executed.
  • Hans' last words before he was executed were "Long live freedom!"
  • Later trials ended with more convictions and executions.  Alex Schmorell was turned in by an ex-girlfriend, convicted, and executed.  Willi Graf and the Kurt Huber philosophy teacher were also convicted and executed.  
  • One student who had tried to collect money to support Huber's widow was also arrested and convicted. 
  • Of the primary members of the White Rose, only one survived: Jürgen Wittenstein.

Jürgen (George) Wittenstein in 1943, taken when he expected to be arrested and executed.
(Photo by Wittenstein, sourced from the Santa Barbara Independent)

  • Wittenstein was arrested and questioned by the Gestapo. The only reason they let him go was because his army commander who knew him from his compulsory military service intervened on his behalf.
  • Wittenstein had been the one to alert Hans and Sophie's parents to their arrest, and managed to get them into the prison so they could see their children one last time.  Had it not been for Wittenstein, Hans and Sophie's parents would have learned of their children's deaths only after the fact.
  • Wittenstein later emigrated to the United States, where he attended Harvard and became a practicing and research surgeon, performing complex heart operations, and helping to establish new cardiac facilities at other hospitals.

Jürgen Wittenstein, in 2010 at age 91, at a reunion held with the two teenagers he helped in 1939. They had left Germany and settled in New York.
(Photo from the Santa Barbara Independent)

US News & World Report, Anonymous Launches Offensive Against Trump, March 17, 2016
Time Magazine, Secret Service Investigating Claims That Anonymous Hacked Donald Trump, March 18, 2016
Global Nonviolent Action Database, White Rose Resistance to Hitler's Regime, 1942-1943
Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, The White Rose
Jewish Virtual Library, Holocaust Resistance: The White Rose - A Lesson in Dissent
Spartacus Educational, Jürgen Wittenstein and Kurt Huber
The United States Holocaust Museum, Holocaust Encyclopedia, White Rose
History Is a Weapon, The Six Pamphlets of the White Rose Society
Flashbak, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Rebellion, February 22, 2016
History.com, Feb 18, This Day in History: Nazis arrest White Rose resistance leaders
The History Learning Site, The White Rose Movement
Santa Barbara Independent, George (Jürgen) Wittenstein: 1919-2015: A Member of WWII’s White Rose, July 9, 2015