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How Did I Miss That? Plastic Soup in the Pacific; Expensive Johns in N.C.

Slate reported that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been grossly exaggerated in that most of the plastic detritus is not easily visible to the naked eye and the descriptions that make it sound like an island of trash the size of Texas are overblown. More than half of the trash problem is “micro-garbage” full of toxins that can enter the food chain and find their way to us.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, though, is not substantial enough to be picked up by satellite, so it is said you cannot observe it with Google Earth. It is so invisible, as Slate put it, you could be traveling though it “and never notice you are in the middle of a death-shaped noxious vortex.” It’s more a broth than a patch; soup rather than salad.

There are two separate giant plastic soups in the North Pacific, one in the Atlantic, and several others elsewhere. Collectively, they call this hazardous stuff “marine debris.”

My cousin Ray Sixkiller said he felt a lot better knowing he can’t see the toxins coming to his tuna sandwich. I was wondering if the science guys could genetically engineer a tuna to give sandwiches already wrapped in plastic? And maybe a nice cup of polypropylene broth on the side?

Foreign Policy reported that a public push is underway to get the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the “White Helmets,” as they call the Syrian civil defense. The White Helmets are largely engaged in pulling civilians from the rubble after bombing raids by the Russians or the Assad government. Sometimes bombs fall on the rescuers. Among other celebrities, George Clooney has signed the petition.

The Washington Post reported on a bit of ugliness from President Obama’s first undergraduate school, Occidental College in Los Angeles. The other distinguished alum from Occidental was Rep. Jack Kemp, who is the primary rebuttal when the GOP is attacked for taking in the Dixiecrats after they left the Democratic Party over LBJ’s civil rights legislation.

Kemp was attracted to Occidental not by the diversity, but by Occidental’s early use of formations that were more common in professional football. After he got the career in football he always wanted, Kemp went into politics and quickly became known as “the bleeding heart conservative” because he was a rare voice on the right for governmental intervention in the problems of inner cities. To this day, Occidental has a Republican Club with a Facebook logo featuring Kemp.

The Occidental Republican Club put together a 9-11 memorial to recognize the anniversary that involved placing 2,997 U.S. flags—one for each victim. The memorial was destroyed the first night, the flags removed or just kicked over. A trash barrel was overflowing with flags.

Some fliers appeared protesting the war in Iraq, but the connection between the fliers and the vandalism was unclear.

The Kansas City Star reported that Missouri Republicans have overcome a Democratic filibuster and overridden Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill to eliminate permits to carry concealed weapons and the training requirements and background checks that were linked to the permits. The same bill eliminated the duty to retreat from a confrontation before using deadly force and expanded the “castle doctrine” to allow guests in a home to use deadly force against intruders.

“So Missouri eliminated training for gun carriers and expanded the legal use of deadly force all at once?” Cousin Ray was shaking his head. “What could possibly go wrong?”

The Southern Poverty Law Center announced that the city of Chickasaw, Alabama responded to an SPLC letter complaining about putting people in jail for not paying utility bills by repealing the ordinance without a lawsuit being filed.

The repeal did not come in time for Sonya Ayers, a 48 year old resident of Chickasaw with no criminal record. Ayers fell behind on her water bill while unable to work because she was caring for her ailing mother.

Her mother died in early November 2015 and on November 23 she went to the courthouse to get papers notarized she needed for her new job.

The city shut her water off and then prosecuted her for maintaining a dwelling without water. She was ordered to pay over $400 in fines and fees to the city plus monthly supervision fees to Judicial Corrections Services, a private company hired to oversee persons placed on probation.

While in jail, her car was repossessed, and there is no public transportation.

Considering that this is Alabama, famous for a bombed church in Birmingham and setting dogs on peaceful protesters long before North Dakota allowed setting dogs on the peaceful protestors supporting the Standing Rock Sioux, it feels like a punchline for a bad joke when I report that Ms. Ayers is white.

Moving from discrimination against the poor to discrimination against the different, Wired made a serious effort to find out how much money the anti-transgender “bathroom bill” has cost North Carolina so far. A law, I hasten to add, not supported by a majority of North Carolinians, according to opinion polling.

Here’s a fair description of the bill of goods North Carolina taxpayers are involuntarily buying:

1. It’s mean. It creates a problem where none existed for no purpose beyond hurting the feelings of transgender people and allowing the fundamentalist mullahs to feel superior.

2. It’s certain to eventually get declared unconstitutional because it’s purposeful discrimination with no offsetting public advantage.

3. It’s science denial, in that the treatment protocol for gender dysphoria is declared to be illegal. It’s takes a special kind of stupid to think that you can make a medical condition go away by making the treatment illegal.

Wired did not go into any of this, but simply tried to total the cost so far: $395 million or, as the magazine pointed out, more than the GDP of Micronesia.

I knew the Research Triangle had brought prosperity to part of North Carolina far above the rest of the south, but I did not know they were wealthy enough to piss away a sum like that.

The same mullahs taking North Carolina to the cleaners showed their power again when The New York Times reported that the death rate of women from complications of pregnancy or childbirth have dropped worldwide, falling more than a third from 2000 to 2015. The trend is in the other direction in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and….the United States. Maternal death rates in the U.S.—about 28 per 100,000 births---are more than triple the rate in Canada and above the rates in much poorer countries like Iran, Vietnam, Russia, and Romania.

One theory of why is the increase in obesity, but some of us think that the jihad of the mullahs against Planned Parenthood clinics—where many women used to get prenatal care—could not have done our death rates any good. FactCheck.org dismantled the mullahs’ claims that “94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services are abortions.” 

I generally don’t watch award shows, on the theory that if somebody pulls a Marlon Brando or something else happens worth knowing, I’ll hear about it.

This week I did.

E!'s Giuliana Rancic, who drew a long straw and had to work the red carpet at the Emmys, asked Amy Schumer the question on everybody’s mind, “Who are you wearing?” Schumer gave the question everything it deserved when she answered:

I'm wearing Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford shoes and an o.b. tampon.

This column is the perfect place to announce the fifth person running for POTUS, because I know you missed that the same way everybody else did. The candidate has got even less notice than the one I supported while he was running, Larry Lessig.

Evan McMullin is a former CIA agent. Right now, he’s a Republican running as an Independent with the hope of peeling votes away from Donald Trump. He is a Mormon who did his missionary work in Brazil and then graduated from Brigham Young University and Donald Trump’s alma mater, the Wharton School of Business.

He disagrees with the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision but would not appoint people to the SCOTUS with an eye to overturning it. He’s anti-abortion but how anti is not clear.

His main reason for running is Trump’s foreign policy, which he considers dangerous, and what he perceives as Trump’s sucking up to Vladimir Putin.

Politically summarizing the candidates for POTUS, from left to right: Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin. I cannot place Donald Trump because it depends on what audience he is addressing and what he would actually do is anybody’s guess.

Great Big Story recycled a whale story as a human story in a video report commiserating with Paul Linnman, a TV reporter who covered an ecological problem that turned into “The Day it Rained Whale.”

An 8 ton whale was D.O.A. on a beach near Florence, Oregon, on November 12, 1970. Some rocket scientist in state government decided that if the stinking carcass was blown up it would turn into small pieces of meat that scavengers would quickly clean up.

Linnman set up his shot and boom went the dynamite. Soon it was raining tiny pieces of whale meat…and then bigger ones. The spectators, realizing there might be some danger, beat feet back to the parking lot where, Linnman reported, a slab of whale blubber “about the size of a coffee table” destroyed somebody’s Oldsmobile.

The video Linnman shot that day went viral before the Internet, and left a mark on his broadcasting career that he figures will lead his obituary.

“Could have been worse,” Cousin Ray commented. “It could have been his Oldsmobile.”