Trump Or Clinton? Got To Be Kidding

Man, I love politics. Seriously, I do. What is there not to love?

Think about it. No. Think about this: Two of the most loathsome, despicable, ghastly candidates, that could ever be found crawling under some rock, are favoured to run for President of the United States.

Happy days.

I’m talking Trump and Clinton of course. Should we be afraid? My word we should. Make that very afraid.

Who is the ‘we’? Why, the whole world silly.

Here is a small disclaimer. I’m not going to waste valuable time, space and oxygen talking about Clinton. If you want to know about Clinton, then I not so humbly suggest you buy my book called Cover Up and read the chapter on the death of U.S. Secretary for Commerce Ron Brown.

No, the guy I want to talk about here today is Donald Trump. You Americans are so funny. Only you could come up with someone like Donald Trump. He’s like some fictional parody from Saturday Night Live. Accept he’s neither fiction nor a parody. He’s real. The real deal is what you call it.

Absolutely love the bouffant hair and the fake tan. Seriously (I am saying that a lot) the guy is orange for crying out loud. How could you vote for someone orange? Great. Now I’m beginning to sound like a racist.

Speaking of race. Trump wants to build a giant fence to keep the Mexicans out of the United States.

Well, I guess it could work. Israel built one to keep out the Palestinians.

My question is this: who’s going to pay for this great idea?

Why Mexico.Who else? No way Jose I hear you say? No worries. Trump has a plan for that as well. Jack up all tariffs on Mexican goods until Mexico plays ball and pays for the wall.

And while they are at it, those pesky Mexicans should stop sending rapists and criminals across the border. Trump’s also promised to shut down Mosques, create a database on Muslims and round up the children of illegal immigrants.

Yeah right.

Seriously (there I said it again) this bloke thinks a fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, isn’t a war hero because he got captured.

Wait. It gets worse.

Trump still does not believe that the current American President was born in the United States.

Anyway, I don’t really care what Donald Trump has to say. What interests me are the Trump supporters. What are they saying? Now, I for one, really care and want to hear what they have to say. I’m sure that some of them represent the lowest common denominator going, but not all of them are ignorant, uneducated and inarticulate.

A great many of them are completely mainstream but they’ve been well and truly trumped by bellicose rhetoric. Here’s what some of them have said when asked why they support Donald Trump: ‘He’s a billionaire, a celebrity and a proven winner. A man not beholden to the influences nor the interests of the political establishment.’

A political establishment, I might add, many Americans believe has abandoned them.

These Trump supporters view his lack of experience in politics not as a flaw but as an asset. Even his most outlandish and controversial statements didn’t change their minds.

In fact the exact opposite.

They see those statements as evidence that he won’t back down in the face of adversity. Trump’s opinions are his own and not carefully crafted by some spin doctor handler. Opinions that will NOT be conveniently abandoned once he gets elected.

On that last point, I am not so sure. Trump is pretty good at saying what he means but what about really meaning what he says? It remains to be seen. The man is an unguided missile. It’s the Forest Gump, no make that Trump, box of chocolates, come to life.

Could he be elected President? Damn right he could.

There is a precedent.

Remember that B grade Hollywood actor, who occupied the White House not so long ago? And some Americans still speak in hushed tones about Ronald Reagan and what a great President he was. If Ronnie Reagan can get to be President, then a Donald Trump can certainly triumph.

You Americans are guilty of a grievous sin. I blame you. It’s your fault because you never took Donald Trump seriously. The Republican Party never took him seriously. And now that they have it’s too late for those Republicans, who aren’t on the Donald Trump bandwagon, to stop him. He’s turned into a runaway juggernaut. Unfortunately, the world must face the possibility that this lunatic may become the leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

All I’ve got to say is GOD HELP US ALL.

Unarmed 12-year-0ld Child Shot Dead By Police. Call That Justice?

We’re about to herald in a new year. 2016. But clearly someone forgot to tell the good old US of A.

I say that because, this week, America stepped back in time.

By more than 150 years to be precise.

Stepped back to a time when black people were not considered good enough to be called second-class citizens. Not even ranked high enough in the food chain to be called second-class, nor were they citizens. They were slaves. At the whim of white people who could, and did ,literally decide if they should live or die.

Now, of course, slavery has been abolished but attitudes have not. White people are still deciding, very arbitrarily it seems, if Black Americans should live or die. Certainly as far as law enforcement is concerned.

Sounds a bit harsh? Well a Grand Jury has just decided that two cops who shot a 12-year-old black child dead should not have to face criminal charges.

Tamir Rice, was playing in a park with an imitation pistol in Cleveland, Ohio. But in the United States, in the 21st Century, that can get you killed. It certainly got Tamir killed. This incident would be laughably absurd if it wasn’t so tragic. It shows many things about American society and sadly none of them good.

Let’s just step through the events as they happened. A panicked citizen makes a 911 call about Tamir who was pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people. You have to remember that this is a gun happy, no make that trigger-happy society. That call was the start of many, many mistakes. If the people involved had been level headed and shown more common sense this tragedy might have been avoided.

The audio of that 911 call was publicly released. On the tape you hear the caller say very clearly, in reference to the gun Tamir had, “ it’s probably a fake but it’s scaring the shit out of people.”

The 911 phone operator, then asks the caller, not once but twice, whether Tamir was black or white as if that is somehow relevant or makes a difference. Who am I kidding? Of course it made a difference. By how much, you are about to find out.

The caller tells the operator that the perpetrator is a child and finishes the conversation by restating that he does not know if the gun is real or a fake. However, NONE of this information is passed on to the police patrol car that responds to this situation. I use the term ‘respond’ very loosely. The patrol car has a rookie cop on board and his field-training officer. They arrive at the park to discover Tamir playing on a swing and in the space of just TWO seconds, that rookie cop Timothy Loehmann shoots Tamir Rice dead. That is how it happened.

A Grand Jury was given the responsibility of finding if the two police officers involved in this should be criminally prosecuted. Cuyahoga County Justice Centre Prosecutor, Tim McGinty, announced that rookie cop Loehmann and his field training officer, Frank Garmback, would not be indicted because of “indisputable” evidence that the officers believed Rice was reaching for a real gun. “Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications, by all involved, that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police,” McGinty said. “The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it.”

McGinty went on to say that Tamir Rice was trying to show the police the gun wasn’t real but the officers had no way of knowing that was what the young boy was trying to do. It was not until after the shooting, with the gun on the ground, that police learned the boy was playing with a replica firearm that shoots nonlethal plastic pellets.

Ok. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct this. The outcome of this seems to have been a foregone conclusion the minute the 911 dispatcher told the patrol car they were about to deal with a black kid armed with a gun in a park.

I was under the mistaken impression that Police in the United States, also carried nonlethal force in the form of pepper spray and Tasers. Both of which, and I’m sure Tamir Rice’s family would agree with me, should have been used instead of lethal force. But no consideration was given to either of those options.

Secondly, why was a rookie cop allowed to take control rather than his more experienced partner? I would think given the rookie’s level of experience, it was the kind of situation he was not qualified to deal with.

Thirdly, I thought Police were supposed to be measured, calm and take time to assess the situation. I can appreciate that sometimes this is simply not possible because of the fast moving nature of an incident.

But in this case it was the Police and not Tamir Rice who were moving at the speed of light. They arrive at the scene and in the space of just TWO seconds, a 12-year-old child is shot dead. That is not responsible policing. That is trigger happy, rogue cop behavior in my opinion.

In a statement, Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said she was “devastated” by the decision and she urged federal officials to pursue civil rights charges.

“I don’t want my child to have died for nothing and I refuse to let his legacy or his name be ignored,” Samaria Rice said. “As the video shows, Officer Loehmann shot my son in less than a second. All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. “We mourn for Tamir, and for all of the black people who have been killed by the police without justice. In our view, this process demonstrates that race is still an extremely troubling and serious problem in our country and the criminal-justice system.”

Yep.

We Are All Paris

The world is a different place today. France is a different place. Paris is a place I barely recognise and I don’t know what will become of it.

The Paris I know is a city of romance. A city of light. A city of cafes and restaurants and history. Of baguettes and croissants and cars with yellow headlights and fantastic public transport. Of iconic monuments and buildings which made it so easily recognisable. A city of art, culture and life. Wonderful life. Now it’s a city splashed with the blood of hundreds of its innocent citizens. Slaughtered randomly, brutally by a small group of depraved fanatics.

Paris will never be the same. It can never be the same. Its citizens aren’t safe. Unfortunately making them safe means making big life changes. It may mean they must live in a constant state of martial law. Police and the army, heavily armed, patrolling the streets, to deter and intimidate. In all likelihood, a permanent presence. It is a tragedy. Absolutely contrary to a country built on liberty, equality and fraternity. France fought a revolution for freedom and democratic principles. And now its citizens, in its capital, can no longer trust anyone or anything. They will always be looking over their shoulders. Looking at each other with fear and doubt. They won’t be able to travel freely and easily. Everywhere they gather in numbers must now involve being searched and delays and difficulties and inconvenience. It’s the price they will have to pay to feel and be safe. It is sad and horrible. Many tears have been shed and will be shed over the coming days, weeks and months. Not just tears for the dead, or the injured or for the survivors. The traumatized survivors who will be forever haunted by what they saw and heard. They will never forget. They can’t forget. There will be tears for what Paris has now become. For the world we now live in.

And not just what Paris has become. This kind of attack can happen anywhere, anytime. In any capital city in any country that dares to take on IS. And it probably will. That is the frightening reality all of us must now face.

As long as the Islamic State exists, nowhere and nobody is safe. Governments have a responsibility to keep their citizens safe. And that will mean all of us making sacrifices, giving up hard won freedoms. It is the price we must pay.

And what will become of the people fleeing oppression who have landed in the thousands in Europe and elsewhere hoping for a new life? We have only just learned that one of the terrorists responsible for the Paris massacres gained entry to France by arriving in Greece pretending to be a Syrian refugee. Countries will begin to close their borders. These poor people will no longer be welcome, permanently displaced. They have run away from oppression only to suffer a form of oppression in some ways much worse than what they have left. It is so unfair and wrong.

There will be change. There has to be change. No doubt the events in Paris has awoken the sleeping giant. Retribution will be swift and, as the French President has already pointed out, merciless. This has galvanized the world and so it should. It will be the coalition of the willing and the unwilling all united with one stated purpose: the annihilation of the so-called caliphate.

The people responsible for the Paris massacres are cowards and bullies. They will pay a terrible price for what they have done. Already there is speculation of a political settlement in Syria, which would clear the decks for a united military approach to IS. A worldwide declaration of War already made in part by the French President.

All of us mourn with the people of Paris. We stand united with them. We share their grief but it must somehow ( and I don’t know how) result in a better world, a safer and kinder world. If it doesn’t, then what has happened will truly be for nothing. And that doesn’t bear thinking about.

A Letter To America

Dear United States Of America,

I am a huge fan. I really am. You have much that I admire. You value democracy and the right of the individual. You try and help as best you can although sometimes I do question your priorities.

You have a bit of a curiosity, a kind of an understanding about the rest of the world even though sometimes I have to mark you down on your knowledge of geography.

You embrace freedom but I have to say lately you’ve been embracing it a little too enthusiastically for my liking. I mean what’s with your freedom to bear arms? From where I sit, it looks like a freedom to kill each other. And you’ve been doing that with monotonous regularity. May I remind you, 13 killed and many more wounded in your latest shooting massacre. What’s more you have a propensity to choose schools, elementary and high, to demonstrate this freedom.

Can’t quite get my head around that one. These are just innocent children.

Your President is pretty mad with you. I just saw him on TV looking and sounding grim. He called these massacres ‘routine’ and demanded that your Congress pass stricter gun laws. Then he made a really good point. He said the United States was the only advanced country on the planet that sees these mass shootings every few months. Wow.

But there was also a note of resignation in his voice. Almost like deep down he knows stricter gun laws are never going to happen. Congress won’t do anything and innocent people will keep getting killed.

He said why can’t you be like Australia which got me pretty excited and surprised. He said Australia had a simple solution to gun deaths after they experienced similar massacres. Reduce access to guns. And guess what? It actually worked.

But every time somebody suggests tougher gun laws in the United States your gun lobby comes out and blames everyone including the victims. Everyone, apart from the person, who actually pulled the trigger. They were crazy but hey everyone still has the right to own a gun. Right? Sorry but you are on your own with that one.

I think you need to understand that any freedom must be accompanied by social responsibility. That’s why we have speed limits and make car passengers wear seat belts and have laws banning smoking in public places. Those kinds of laws should also apply to the right to bear arms.

I know I’m probably wasting my time telling you this. You’ve never taken any notice in the past. But seriously this has to stop.

You Americans, on the whole, are an easy going, friendly bunch. I want as many of you to live long and happy lives especially your children who have a whole life ahead of them.

But you are being stupid and pig headed and just plain wrong when it comes to guns.

Sometimes it takes your friends to pull you up. But believe me, I am doing it with the best of intentions. If you’ll pardon the pun you need to bite the bullet on gun reform.

Yours sincerely,

The Rest Of The World.

We Have Moral Obligations – Do Something

Sometimes I don’t like the world we live in.

I don’t.

It is frequently inhumane, lacks compassion and treats the vulnerable with callous indifference.

Right now, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions is right under our noses. People as in men, women, children, old and young, fleeing war, oppression and slaughter in countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

The desperation of these refugees is such they will take to anything floating and undertake the perilous journey over water, to reach safety and hopefully a new life. It’s a dance with the devil. You are maybe damned if you do and almost certainly damned if you don’t. Take the risk and die. Stay and definitely die. Would you call that a choice?  It’s being played out nightly on the TV news. Many make it. Some do not. But despite the obvious risk, they come. And keep coming. Desperation makes you crazy.

We see these people arrive in the thousands. A human tidal wave, showing no sign of abating. A human tidal wave, that Europe largely doesn’t want to know, doesn’t know what to do with, or how to stop. It’s not going to stop. If anything it will continue to swell.

But what is really important is our collective response, with few exceptions, to these people who need our help. What has it been? We close our borders, or in the case of Australia, the country I live in, we close our borders, tow them back to their stepping off point or, if that doesn’t work, force to them to go to a glorified prison in some god forsaken rat hole like Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They used to come in relatively large numbers. Now they don’t come  at all. Our Australian Government takes the credit for this. As if there is credit to be taken. It trumpets the catch cry, we stopped the boats, as if it’s something laudable. I guess it could be if you think cruelty is laudable.

These people committed no crime. Unless you believe asking for help is a crime. And no good pretending we don’t collectively share some culpability for their displacement. They are currently living in a war zone in the countries I already mentioned. And countries like the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Australia are contributing to that war zone by dropping bombs and missiles. Even if you truly believe it is a necessary evil to do this, it doesn’t excuse our responsibility to the people displaced as a result.

Syria is a political and social catastrophe. A catastrophe, in all probability, it may never recover from. I understand that. But we can’t simply shrug our shoulders and pretend we aren’t human beings. If people are in need, we have a moral obligation to help them. I am unable to process how we can simply look away and pretend they don’t exist or pretend it’s too big or pretend that we don’t have that obligation. Sorry but we do. It was one of the things we all signed up for in order to become a member of the human race. Even if you don’t believe what I am saying, then believe this: It’s the right thing to do.

I was looking at a video the other day that made me very sad at what we have become. It showed a homeless boy on the streets of a wealthy and affluent American city begging for help. It was cold and he was dressed in rags and carrying a plastic bag. All he had in the world. He was weak and desperate. It was etched on his face. But people simply kept walking and pretending he didn’t exist. We do indifference so well. In the end, another homeless man gave this young boy some help in the form of donating his own warm jacket. Two desperate individuals but one prepared to sacrifice what little he had to help a fellow human being. It was uplifting but at the same time morally bankrupt.

If you want to abrogate your responsibility, think this isn’t your circus, want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of your fellow humans, fine. But go and live on another planet because you certainly don’t belong on this one.

Tinder And Grindr. Waste Of Time.

I cannot get over how much the dating landscape in the 21st century seismically shifted.

When I was growing up, meeting someone for a relationship, was reasonably upfront. Give or take the odd, unexpected left turn. There was the at work option, or at a party, pub or bar. See. I’m so old fashioned and out of touch to be talking about this. Then along came Internet dating. I never had an issue with that. Never bothered me in the slightest. In fact I warmly embraced this development. It was such a perfectly, reasonable, rational not to mention respectful way to meet a potential partner. But now we have something completely different. I call them the devil’s children of Internet dating. Not that I am passing some kind of moral judgment here. I’m not. Far from it. I just have a lot of personal issues with Tinder and Grindr. And, it is not because they’re a couple of smartphone applications, used primarily by people to have casual sex. Actually, “casual” is way too nice a word. It’s because they live in a world where people and sex are disposable commodities. To be used and discarded, There’s no love, no deep connection, no personal investment of any kind to be found in Tinder and Grindr apart from the kind you get from self-gratification. But for some of us, maybe even many of us, these two apps have fundamentally changed the way we go about things relationship wise and not in a good way, in my view.

So I was quite interested and bemused to read a story with the headline: “ How Sex Is Killing The Live Music Scene Thanks To Tinder And Grindr.”

The story suggested that we forget breath-testing, lockouts, or downloading – Sex is killing live music, or at least the search for it is, on Tinder and Grindr.

That’s the provocative but serious claim, made by a music venue owner and live music booker, James Young, who says that more and more people prefer to “stare at their phones and swipe left or right ” rather than head out to a bar where they might meet somebody.  Sounds pretty sad to me.

“Grindr, the gay app, came out about two years before Tinder and has destroyed the gay hotspot [in Melbourne],” Young says. “That is a textbook, identifiable case. And here we are, two years later, with Tinder following in its footsteps”. He says young people are hanging about (probably at home) hunched over their phones instead of going out to bars and clubs.

It should be pointed out that music venues don’t simply exist for the sole purpose of enabling a romantic meeting between two people. Of course not says Young, but “bars are fragile businesses” and anything that affects even three or five percent of business on already thin margins can be hard to recover from. “And what we are talking about is 10 per cent loss of business and for some businesses, that’s their profit margin.”

Young, who owns and books music for three bars in Melbourne argues that “sex has always been a big part of rock ‘n’ roll but we’re not saying the sole purpose of venues is to pick up”. It is, however, a problem that carries a ripple effect because people used to meet – or hook up in the modern parlance – at venues where music was being played.

“If there are less people at the bars, that’s going to affect sales and there is also a parallel issue in the type of dates you go on,” Young says. “A Tinder date is a super casual date so ‘let’s meet at a cafe, let’s meet at the latest, chic pop-up restaurant’. He says first dates used to be at a rowdy live music event. Not anymore. But people don’t really talk to each other anymore. They hook up.

He says in Sydney you can add lockouts and earlier closing of bars to the Tinder-effect. Young also raises another fear, that “Netflix, Stan and binge TV series watching have become the new dating”, with the simplicity of an affordable entertaining option capped off by the fact that “you’re already on the couch”.

What a huge yawn. I prefer the personal meet and greet, the spark, the meeting of minds, the possibility of what might be and then discovering that it is, any day over any smartphone app. As far as I’m concerned Tinder can go up in flames and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. I know. So old fashioned.

Phantom The Pirate Purring Moggy

I’ve had a small, self-imposed hiatus from blogging recently. Nothing untoward. Just pursuing other equally important stuff. But there is nothing like coming across a piece of total absurdity to shake off lethargy and get you hitting the keyboard again.

There is a small moggy called Phantom to thank for getting me out of the blocks. And I thank his owner. I will try my best to keep any puns to a minimum. Now, I know online piracy of copyrighted material is a big issue, and big companies don’t like it. There’s been a significant court case in Australia recently on internet piracy that initially delivered a judgment going one way and then, on appeal, another judgment that went the other way. But that is another story. What I am talking about here, in the case of Phantom, should be called online piracy of the ridiculous.

This story began about a year ago when Phantom’s owner, a YouTube user called Digihaven tried to do us all a favour. He wanted to acknowledge the calming, soothing, not to mention meditative qualities of cat purring. So Digihaven uploaded an hour long looped video of Phantom, his cat, doing just that. Purring. Softly. The video was called “Cat Purr 1 Hour Relax, Study,Sleep.”

So I guess you are wondering how in the name of Christ could this find its way to being a case of copyright infringement? Me too. But wait. There’s more.

Digihaven’s video did modest business compared to some cat videos. It amassed around 25 hundred hits but it was monetized so potentially it could earn revenue for Digihaven under YouTube’s Content ID system.

For those who might not be aware of the YouTube Content ID system, this is how it works. Anyone who uploads a video can potentially leverage it to make money by ticking the monetizing tab. But you have to own the copyright on all of the material in the video, including any music or sound used. It’s designed to keep everyone honest. YouTube’s system is built to look for evidence of copyright infringement, and stop people making money from uploading other people’s songs and films. The automated program scans videos and matches their soundtracks to existing songs — if they’re too similar to something on its database, it stops uploaders from making money from the posts.

Week in, week out, automated bots detect and report millions of alleged copyright infringements, which are then processed by the receiving site without a human ever looking at them.

Unfortunately this process is far from flawless, resulting in many false and inaccurate copyright infringement claims. Just to give you more of an idea, the system is similar to what YouTube installed to detect pornographic videos which went horribly wrong when it was revealed that uploaders were by passing the system by using Gaelic Irish language titles for porn films. Is it just me who finds this particularly hilarious? Talk about an Irish joke.

So, getting back to the story of Phantom, the purring moggy. Almost a year after Phantom’s video was posted by Digihaven, the cat’s owner was informed by YouTube that Phantom is a “pirate” purring moggy. No I am not joking. Apparently, it was claimed that part of the video belongs to EMI Music Publishing and PRS, who happen to be two of the world’s biggest music publishing companies.

In its copyright notice sent to Digihaven, YouTube says the cat purring was flagged by its Content ID system as infringing a copy of a musical composition called “Focus.”

The video was not removed by the false claim, but according to Digihaven, monetization was disabled. I am happy to report he won’t be forced into bankruptcy due to the loss of income.

“I’m sure EMI/PRS made Phantom a sad kitty,” Dighaven was heard to say.

But the story doesn’t end here. Not on your life. Or in this case all nine of them. Digihaven was just sharpening Phantom’s claws for a catfight with YouTube and the two music publishing giants who seemingly have nothing better to do.

Hoping to clear his cat’s name, Digihaven filed a dispute. I am also happy to say sanity prevailed with EMI agreeing to lift its claim of copyright infringement.

And while we all might contemplate how it even got this far, Phantom, meanwhile, is reportedly considering a career in the music business and looking for compensation.

“Phantom is currently independent, but looking to sign on with an indie label,” his owner Digihaven says. “ Phantom’s lawyer is looking for 4 kilos of catnip in damages.”

And so he should.

Woman Kills Attacker Ending Career Of Serial Killer

Some time ago I wrote about a pretty nondescript town in the Midwest of the United States rapidly gaining notoriety because, in all likelihood, it was being stalked by a serial killer.

The town I was talking about is called Chillicothe. Located in an area that’s been dubbed the Rust Belt. It is a very unflattering term given to a region in America, which has experienced devastating economic decline, population loss and urban decay due to the collapse of its once powerful industrial sector. It is by no means an exception that Chillicothe would be afflicted by the usual problems of drugs, poverty and unemployment. A lot of towns in this part of the world carry that stigma. But Chillicothe could be said to have fallen a long way further than the rest. Two hundred years ago it was Ohio’s first capital. It’s a boast the locals still include on the city sign. This is a place rarely mentioned in a headline of any kind unless some Presidential or Congressional candidate blows in promising to do this, that and the other to make life better for the town’s 21 thousand citizens, only to completely forget once election day came and went.

But lately Chillicothe was in the news for an entirely different reason. It is dark, sinister and extremely evil. It seems Chillicothe is also home to a serial killer who keeps murdering young women. In just over a year, at least six women have disappeared from the town. Four of their bodies were later discovered dumped in creeks or streams that flow out of the city. In every way it is a tragically, familiar story. Most of these women addicted to drugs or moonlighting as prostitutes to feed and fund their habit so local police say. Some of the missing women even knew each other. Understandably, the similarities between all of the victims, and the crime scenes, had the residents of Chillicothe terrified. It is a murder mystery that local police, several county sheriff’s offices and State investigators were doing their best to try to solve. Even the FBI’s crime profilers are helping with the investigation trying to build a picture of who might be responsible.

But, I am pleased to say, there could well have been a major development in this story thanks to a courageous and articulate young women with very pink hair who might have encountered the Chillicothe serial killer and lived to tell the tale. This is how the story unfolded. It is a remarkable story of survival. The woman, who has not been identified and wants to remain anonymous, was working as an escort in Charleston West Virginia and placed an advertisement on a website called Backpage.com. This is a website that enables men to make contact with prostitutes. And a man named Neal Falls,aged 45, turned up at her door. When she opened it he held a gun to her stomach and said just three words: Live or die. Then he began strangling her, However, I will let the woman concerned take up the story. “ I knew he was there to kill me,” she said. “I could tell that he had already done something because he said that he was going to prison for a long time. And that’s when I knew he was gonna kill me. “When he strangled me he just wouldn’t let me get any air,” she said. ” I grabbed my rake and when he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands, I shot him. I just grabbed the gun and shot behind me.”

After the shooting, the woman stood in an alley while a neighbor called police. In a recording of that phone call played by local television station KPTV, the woman’s panicked voice is heard in the background. “There’s a lady in the alley here saying that some guy tried to rape her and she had to defend herself and she shot him and he’s in the kitchen,” the neighbor tells the dispatcher. “He pulled a gun on her, she’s got cuts and stuff all over her.” Do you know who the guy is?” the dispatcher asked. “No. I opened the door and he said, ‘Live or die,’ ” the woman tells the dispatcher, crying all the time. When police attended and searched the dead man’s car they found items that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The items included a machete, a shovel, axes, knives, a bulletproof vest, numerous sets of handcuffs, trash bags, sledgehammers and a large bottle of bleach that police assume was to be used or has been used to destroy evidence.. But most importantly they found a list of names of future potential victims, all of them sex workers who advertised on Backpage dot com.

Investigators are now concentrating their efforts on discovering if there is a link between Falls and a string of murders targeting sex workers in Ohio and Nevada. According to Steve Cooper of the Charleston Police Department “ the stuff (police found) is so alarming that we want law enforcement across the country to be aware of it.”

Falls apparently worked as a security guard in Oregon. He did not have a criminal record apart from some minor traffic infringements. Detective Cooper said DNA will now be the key to linking him to other crimes. “We are entering his DNA profile into CODIS, which is a national crime DNA database, to see if it matches any previous submissions from anywhere in the United States,” he said. “If his DNA has been located in any other crimes and his profile was entered into CODIS, there will be a match.”

Whether Falls is ultimately found to be a serial killer his intentions were very clear on this occasion in West Virginia.

“He made a deal with the victim to exchange money for her services as an escort,” Detective Cooper said. “He brought no money with him. What he brought with him was a firearm, four sets of handcuffs, and all of the items we found in the trunk of his car. So … clearly his intentions were dark.”

The good news is that this extraordinarily brave woman who shot dead her attacker will not face any charges. It has been ruled as a justifiable homicide.

In fact justifiable is a very good word. Many, many young women may very well owe her a debt of gratitude that can’t be quantified: their lives.

She Outed Online Trolls Now She Wants Them Charged

Clementine Ford is a freelance writer and blogger. She is Australian, so if you happen to live anywhere else in the world, you’ve probably never heard of her. Never mind. You are about to. Ford writes very entertainingly, in my view, about feminism, pop culture and social issues. She is controversial. Can be divisive. You might not always agree with everything she says but she is entitled to express her opinion and it is always well expressed. Whenever I think of people like Clementine Ford I think of French philosopher Voltaire. I think of the immortal words written about him to the effect I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Clementine Ford wrote about something the other day that created a furore. Now there’s a good word. This is how it all came about. There is a breakfast television program in Australia called Sunrise, which I never watch. The reason I never watch it, is because it appeals to people whose IQ roughly relates to their shoe size. In typical Sunrise fashion they had a segment about photos women had taken of themselves in either nude or compromised positions, that were later used in revenge porn attacks on social media. Of course Sunrise blamed these women saying they had brought the shame upon themselves because they were responsible for the photographs and were aware or should have been aware of the risk of the photos being misused by an ex partner. Sunrise conveniently forgot that many or even most of these photos used in this way were stolen. Ok.

Cue Clementine Ford who took exception to this Sunrise segment and decided to stage a protest of her own. Ford posted a photo of herself on Facebook with the words “Hey #Sunrise, Get F—ed” scrawled across her chest. She also posted a long, passionate and impossible to argue against, in my view, rebuttal of “victim blaming.”

In fact, it is worth repeating some of the words she used in her post that accompanied the photograph: “ I have taken nude photos of myself and sent them to lovers. I’ve taken nude photos of myself when I’m bored. I’ve taken nude photos just because I have a smart phone and it’s fun. None of that means I have asked for my privacy to be violated, my photos stolen and my very self made available for public humiliation and judgment. Consent is everything.

“When Channel 7’s Sunrise asks ‘when will women learn’ instead of ‘why do men continue to view women as objects they can defile and violate while the world watches and tut-tuts’, they are victim blaming. They are saying it’s the responsibility of victims of crime and assault to prevent it and not the responsibility of society to make such crimes intolerable and unacceptable.

“When will women learn? Learn what? That our bodies do not belong to us? That we have no right to determine who sees those bodies, touches those bodies, fucks those bodies, and shares in those bodies? Honey, we don’t need to learn that. We already know the answer. We don’t have those rights. We are not allowed to be the masters of ourselves, only the gatekeepers.

“Fuck your bullshit, Sunrise. You’re an antiquated, pedestrian piece of rubbish and you truck in misogyny and everyday sexism. Consent is what happens when you give permission. Theft and assault is what happens when people take it from you despite you saying no.”

As you might expect Ford’s post, stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest. She received more than 20,000 comments including several graphic and violent messages. They were not pleasant. They were very threatening and completely inappropriate. One in particular from someone called Ryan Hawkins who directly threatened her with sexual violence. But Ford, instead of deleting the messages – “as I have done so many times in the past” – shared the online responses on her Facebook page. In her typically erudite way Ford justified her actions this way: “I chose to share it publicly because abusers hide behind the veil of privacy and anonymity. “When women complain about abuse, we’re often told we’re overreacting or making it up. “It’s important that abusers know they won’t be shielded and also that people see the reality of online harassment.”

Now you might think Facebook would take a dim view of people who threaten violence, particularly of a sexual nature, simply because they don’t like a point of view expressed by a woman, who is not afraid to say what she thinks. If you did, you would be wrong. Dead wrong. What happened next had me scratching my head. Facebook initially banned Ford for 30 days for posting the violent responses. Yep. Because she posted abusive comments made about her including Ryan Hawkins’ threat to commit sexual violence, Ford was deemed to have violated Facebook’s community standards.

Now at this point, like me, you might be thinking Facebook needs to get a grip. Well, someone in Facebook actually did. The 30-day ban has now been lifted and Ford’s Facebook account reinstated.

Understandably, Clementine Ford was ‘thrilled’ that common sense had prevailed while pointing out the ban should never have been imposed in the first place. But that is not the end of this story. Ford decided enough is enough. She reported one of her abusers, South Australian man Ryan Hawkins to police. Ironically, Hawkins found himself the target of intense online criticism and has since apologised for his abuse of Ford, saying he had he jumped on the bandwagon without thinking.

“I was being a smart arse, just trying to have some sick fun with her, but it didn’t really work,” he said. “I said sorry afterwards.”

Ford is not having a bar of the Hawkins apology. She confirmed that she made a formal complaint to police. “This was a real threat and I will be making that case to the police,” Ford said. “He threatened sexual violence against me and that is serious.”

Ford, who was later interviewed by a major daily newspaper, said she had experienced online threats “many, many times before but never “anything like this”.

“The reaction to my initial post, then the reaction to the threats, the incredibly viral nature of the entire thing – it is has been beyond anything I ever expected or experienced,” she said.

And, of course Ford saved some of her harshest words for Facebook.

“How can a post saying, ‘shut up and die you stupid feminist c***’ not automatically violate Facebook policy, but my reposting of those words can?” she said.

“Facebook is woefully behind the times when it comes to gender hate speech, and I am so sick and tired of it.”

Ford also said there had been “moments of optimism” during the week.

“I have had countless emails from so many women this week saying they feel stronger, they feel braver since reading the stories and the post.”

Like I said when it comes to Clementine Ford I can’t help thinking Voltaire, Voltaire, Voltaire.

Tiny Town Stalked By Serial Killer

This is a story about a little town called Chillicothe in the Midwest of the United States. They call this area the Rust Belt. It is a very unflattering term given to a region in America, which has experienced devastating economic decline, population loss and urban decay due to the collapse of its once powerful industrial sector. It is by no means an exception that Chillicothe would be afflicted by the usual problems of drugs, poverty and unemployment. A lot of towns in this part of the world carry that stigma. But Chillicothe could be said to have fallen a long way further than the rest. Two hundred years ago it was Ohio’s first capital. It’s a boast they still include on the city sign. This is a place rarely mentioned in a headline of any kind unless some Presidential or Congressional candidate blows in promising to do this, that and the other to make life better for the town’s 21 thousand citizens, only to completely forget once election day came and went.

But lately Chillicothe is in the news for an entirely different reason. It is dark, sinister and extremely evil. It seems Chillicothe is also home to a serial killer who keeps murdering young women. In just over a year, at least six women have disappeared from the town. Four of their bodies were later discovered dumped in creeks or streams that flow out of the city. In every way it is a tragically, familiar story. Most of these women addicted to drugs or moonlighting as prostitutes to feed and fund their habit so local police say. Some of the missing women even knew each other. Understandably, the similarities between all of the victims, and the crime scenes has the residents of Chillicothe terrified. It is a murder mystery that local police, several county sheriff’s offices and State investigators are doing their best to try to solve. Even the FBI’s crime profilers are helping with the investigation trying to build a picture of who might be responsible.

“I don’t want to come out and say ‘yes, we have a serial killer’ but it’s a small community that we live in . . . and the number of females who have come up missing, and then the bodies that we’ve found, that’s quite a bit for our community,” Staff Lieutenant Mike Preston of the Ross County Sheriff’s Department told The Washington Post. “The community is starting to get concerned. Everyone just wants answers.”

In the absence of answers – and arrests – the citizens of Chillicothe are getting scared. Of course the most obvious conclusion is that a serial killer is stalking prostitutes and that fear is swirling around the town like the winds off the Great Lakes. Jessica Sayre’s older sister, Tiffany, is the latest victim. Her body was found in a drainage pipe on Saturday after she had been missing for more than a month. Obviously there has to be something going on, Sayre says. “Apparently my sister was the next target.”

Women began disappearing a year ago from Chillicothe, about an hour south of Columbus. “We are battling a problem with heroin in our community,” says Mike Preston of the Ross County Sheriff’s Department.

And of course that means prostitution is on the rise as well.

Charlotte Trego was the first woman to vanish. She was in her late 20s with wavy brown hair and glasses, a mother of two who had fallen on hard times. “She started taking pain pills and graduated to heroin,” according to the Columbus Dispatch. In the spring of 2014, Trego told her mother that she was ready to get herself drug free. Her Mother found a rehab centre. But then Trego was evicted by her roommate and was last seen on May 3, 2014. As one scribe put it, her disappearance was as if Chillicothe’s increasingly dangerous streets simply swallowed her whole. Police are certain she is dead but her body has not been found. That same day, a friend of Trego’s, Tameka Lynch, also vanished. Like Trego, Lynch had drug problems. “She used and she kind of was struggling, especially after she was diagnosed with lupus,”

Lynch’s cousin, Chasity Lett, told the Huffington Post. “Once that happened and she lost her place, it kind of triggered the whole drug thing.” Lynch, a 30-year-old mother of three, financed her deepening addiction by selling her body. Lynch was the first of Chillicothe’s missing women to be found. On May 24, three weeks after her disappearance, a kayaker spotted Lynch’s body on a sandbar in Paint Creek outside of town. The Ross County coroner’s office determined she died of a multiple-drug overdose. But Lynch was afraid of the water, her mother Angela Robinson told the Dispatch. “Somebody needs to pay for this,” Robinson said, speculating her daughter was murdered. “She was already dead when she was put in the water.”

In the year since, four more women vanished. On November 3, 2014, six months after Trego and Lynch disappeared another woman would go missing. She was Wanda Lemons a 37-year-old mother of five. “She just disappeared out of thin air,” her daughter, Megan Hodges, told the Huffington Post. “I just want them to find out what happened to her.”

Two months later, Shasta Himelrick was found dead, floating in the Scioto River outside of Chillicothe. In December, she had told friends she was “eating for two.” But on Christmas Day, the pregnant 20-year-old blond received a text message while visiting her grandmother. Himelrick left, promising to return, but never did. A Chillicothe gas station recorded her on CCTV. Hours later, her abandoned car was found on a bridge south of town. The doors were open, the tank empty, and the battery dead. Himelrick’s body was retrieved from the water eight days later. The coroner ruled her death was a suicide but Himelrick’s friends are convinced it was murder.

Tiffany Sayre went missing under similar circumstances. It was around midnight on May 11 and Sayre and friend Jessie Sanford were working as prostitutes at a local motel. “She was doing business at the Chillicothe Inn,” Sanford said. . “She left to run to her grandmother’s house and was going to go back to the hotel to meet the same people so she could make some more money. I don’t know what happened. I think somebody took her.”

Kenneth Buell, who was Sayre’s ex-boyfriend and the father of their two children, told The Washington Post that the couple took heroin and crack cocaine together. “For a couple of years we were both on drugs,” he said. Buell said he got clean a year ago, but Sayre couldn’t and the couple broke up. “She couldn’t kick it,” he said. “It just had a hold of her.”

Jessica Sayre said her sister met another man and tried to go straight. But when her new boyfriend died in April rom a blood clot, Tiffany returned to drugs. “It hit my sister really hard. She really loved him,” Jessica Sayre said. “They had planned on moving, going to this other place, actually getting married and having a life together. I think she did the drugs a little more to help with the pain. She didn’t want to be in her right mind because she didn’t feel like it was the right thing. “The night she apparently went missing, she talked about how she wanted to get her life straight and go clean,” Sayre said. “My sister did these things that we did not approve of to get money for drugs, because we didn’t want to be the source of money for those types of things. She did what she had to do.” Sayre’s family put out missing person flyers and held candlelight vigils, but heard nothing. While they were waiting, another woman, Timberly Clayton, was found dead: shot in the head three times and left in a ditch near another creek. Authorities have named a prime suspect in the killing but have not yet charged him with the crime.

Finally, last Saturday, Sayre became the last victim in the string of disappearances. A couple out for a Saturday evening walk through a nature preserve south of Chillicothe, spotted something white at the edge of a drainage pipe running underneath the road. Sayre’s naked body had been wrapped in a bed sheet and hidden inside the culvert with duct tape wrapped around her strawberry blond hair. “She’s wrapped up in a blanket and you can see her breasts, her stomach, duct tape, a white blanket,” the female passerby told a 911 dispatcher. “We were hoping that she was still alive,” Jessica Sayre said. “You’re wishing and hoping and then all of a sudden you get a phone call saying that your loved one has been found, but not the way you wanted to find her.” ” She got murdered,” Buell said. “Somebody took her away and it was intentional.”

Authorities ruled Sayre’s death a homicide. The grisly discovery helped launch the task force, which now includes more than a dozen members, including FBI analysts. The task force decided to investigate the cases of all six missing women, even those formerly considered suicides. And the investigation could expand to at least three other women who went missing from nearby Portsmouth and Columbus. Police admit a serial killer is a possibility with the apparent pattern of dumping the bodies along waterways outside the city.

“This wasn’t just a simple overdose,” Jessica Sayre said of her sister’s death. “They could have called the police. We didn’t have to find her like this.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is analysing the forensics found at the scene and the task force received more than 100 tips in just a few days, but is still searching for a witness. But as authorities investigate the growing number of deaths and disappearances, some locals say the police are part of the problem. “The day I reported her missing was very upsetting to me,” Trego’s mother, Yvonne Boggs, told the Huffington Post. “The cop said, ‘Women like your daughter take off because they don’t want to be bothered.’ It was like they looked into it up to a certain point and then quit looking.”

“The police didn’t take it serious and just blew me off,” Lynch’s mother, Angela Robinson, told the same Web site. Sayre’s family said they had also been kept in the dark. Kenneth Buell even blames the authorities. Both he and Jessica Sayre said police and authorities abandoned Chillicothe a long time ago. “It’s not safe,” he said. “The last five, six seven years it’s gone to hell. You can’t walk around by yourself, especially females.”

“I feel like Chillicothe has turned for the worst,” Jessica Sayre said. “Now they are going to start picking up the pieces, but this town has really gone down with drugs. It’s got pretty bad.” She says that despite the discovery of her sister’s body, her family will continue to hold vigils for Trego and Lemons, the two other women who disappeared but haven’t been found. “It’s been a nightmare for us,” she said of Tiffany’s death. “Nothing is going to bring her back, but we are going to get justice. And we are going to pray for these other women who missing in Chillicothe.”