Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet

Spirits are all the rage today. Two-thirds of Americans drink, whether they enjoy higher priced call brands or more moderately priced favorites. From fine dining and piano bars to baseball games and backyard barbeques, drinks are part of every social occasion.

In The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet, Garrett Peck explores the often-contradictory social history of alcohol in America, from the end of Prohibition in 1933 to the twenty-first century. For Peck, Repeal left American society wondering whether alcohol was a consumer product or a controlled substance, an accepted staple of social culture or a danger to society. Today the legal drinking age, binge drinking, the neoprohibitionist movement led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Granholm v. Heald that rejected discriminatory curbs on wine sales, the health benefits of red wine, advertising, and other issues remain highly contested.

Based on primary research, including hundreds of interviews with those on all sides├╣clergy, bar and restaurant owners, public health advocates, citizen crusaders, industry representatives, and more├╣as well as secondary sources, The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet, provides a panoramic assessment of alcohol in American culture. Traveling through the California wine country, the beer barrel backroads of New England and Pennsylvania, and the blue hills of Kentucky's bourbon trail, Peck places the concerns surrounding alcohol use within the broader context of American history, religious traditions, and governance.

Society is constantly evolving, and so are our drinking habits. Cutting through the froth and discarding the maraschino cherries, The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet, examines the modern American temperament toward drink amid the $189-billion-dollar-a-year industry that defines itself by the production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ted Koppel's Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

In this New York Times bestselling investigation, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.

Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”

And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid. The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.

In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?

With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chicago Police Officer #JasonVanDyke Charged with Murder in Shooting of Black Teen

A white Chicago police officer was charged Tuesday with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of a black teenager, as the city prepares to release a squad-car video of the incident amid concerns that it will spark protests.

The state's attorney's office said in a news release that Jason Van Dyke, who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014, has been charged with first degree murder.

The judge in the case had ruled that the video, described by some as graphic and deeply disturbing, must be made public by Wednesday -- but sources told the New York Times that its release could come as early as Tuesday afternoon.

“In accordance with the judge’s ruling, the city will release the video by Nov. 25, which we hope will provide prosecutors time to expeditiously bring their investigation to a conclusion so Chicago can begin to heal,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last week, according to the newspaper.

People who have seen the video told The Associated Press that it shows McDonald armed with a small knife and walking away from officers. Van Dyke opens fire from about 15 feet and keeps shooting after the teen falls to the ground.

Police say McDonald, who was found with PCP in his system at the time of his death, was behaving erratically and was refusing to listen to police commands to drop the knife, the Chicago Tribune reports.

An autopsy says McDonald was shot at least twice in the back. Dan Herbert, a lawyer for Officer Van Dyke, said the 14-year police veteran believed the shooting was justified because he feared for his safety, the New York Times reported.

Fox 32 reported that some investigators were brought to the point of tears after seeing the video.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said state police are working with Chicago officials to ensure people remain safe following the release of the video. Rauner said the video is "very troubling" and that he expects public reaction to be "strong." But he said he hopes and believes the response will be "thoughtful and peaceful."

He declined to say whether he's deployed additional troopers to Chicago or put the Illinois National Guard on standby.

"This officer didn't uphold the law, he took the law into his own hands," Emanuel said, adding that he had not seen the video. "[He] didn't build the trust that we would want to see, and wasn't about providing safety and security, so at every point he violated what we entrusted him.”

Ministers, community leaders and others worry the images could lead to the kind of unrest seen in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, after police-involved deaths. Emanuel called together a number of community leaders Monday to appeal for help in keeping the city calm. But some said after the meeting that city officials waited too long to get them involved -- more than a year after McDonald was shot.

"You had this tape for a year and you are only talking to us now because you need our help keeping things calm," one of the ministers, Corey Brooks, said after the meeting.

A judge last week ordered the Police Department to release the squad car dashcam footage by Wednesday after the city refused to do so for several months, saying the investigations into the shooting weren't complete. The FBI and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office are investigating.

Ira Acree, who described the meeting with Emanuel as "very tense, very contentious," said the mayor expressed concerns about the prospect of any demonstrations getting out of control.

Another minister who attended, Jedidiah Brown, said emotions were running so high that there would be no stopping major protests once the video is released.

Earlier Monday, Emanuel's office characterized the discussion as something "we regularly do on important topics." But Acree and another minister, Marshall Hatch, said it is a rare occurrence.

"We have been trying to meet with the mayor since the beginning of the year to talk about community relations and his staff asks for a letter and says, `We'll get back to you,' but they never do," Acree said before going to City Hall for the discussion.

Hatch added: "This has the feeling of them scrambling."

Acree and Hatch said blacks in the city are upset about the shooting and because city officials and the Police Department refused for several months to release the video until ordered to do so by a judge. They said people also are angry because the officer, though stripped of his police powers, has been assigned to desk duty and not fired.

"They had the opportunity to be a good example and a model across the country on how to improve police and community relations and they missed it," Acree said.

The Police Department said placing an officer on desk duty after a shooting is standard procedure and that it is prohibited from doing anything more during the investigations.

The Chicago police also moved late Monday to discipline a second officer who had shot and killed an unarmed black woman in 2012 in another incident causing tensions between the department and minority communities. Superintendent Garry McCarthy recommended firing Officer Dante Servin for the shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, saying Servin showed "incredibly poor judgment" even though a jury had acquitted him of involuntary manslaughter and other charges last April.

Thanks to Fox News.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy died almost half a century ago--yet because of his extraordinary promise and untimely death, his star still resonates strongly. On the anniversary of his assassination, celebrated political scientist and analyst Larry J. Sabato--himself a teenager in the early 1960s and inspired by JFK and his presidency--explores the fascinating and powerful influence he has had over five decades on the media, the general public, and especially on each of his nine presidential successors.

A recent Gallup poll gave JFK the highest job approval rating of any of those successors, and millions remain captivated by his one thousand days in the White House. For all of them, and for those who feel he would not be judged so highly if he hadn't died tragically in office, The Kennedy Half-Century will be particularly revealing. Sabato reexamines JFK's assassination using heretofore unseen information to which he has had unique access, then documents the extraordinary effect the assassination has had on Americans of every modern generation through the most extensive survey ever undertaken on the public's view of a historical figure. The full and fascinating results, gathered by the accomplished pollsters Peter Hart and Geoff Garin, paint a compelling portrait of the country a half-century after the epochal killing. Just as significantly, Sabato shows how JFK's presidency has strongly influenced the policies and decisions--often in surprising ways--of every president since.

Among the hundreds of books devoted to JFK, The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, stands apart for its rich insight and original perspective. Anyone who reads it will appreciate in new ways the profound impact JFK's short presidency has had on our national psyche.

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