First Covenant Church of Sacramento, which has helped resettle several hundred Muslim refugees, received a big thank you Wednesday night from the SALAM Islamic Center.
At its annual interfaith Iftar, the SALAM center gave First Covenant its Distinguished Award for Exceptional Interfaith and Community Service.
More than 200 guests, including local, state and federal officials, stood to applaud First Covenant Executive Pastor Mark Shetler for promoting friendships between Christians and Muslims and offering material and spiritual support to refugees fleeing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.
Twenty years after the Oklahoma City bombing, federal authorities have lost sight of domestic extremists and failed to prevent acts of terrorism. The lack of focus, funding and information-sharing across disparate agencies has led to fatal consequences for unsuspecting victims around the country. Meanwhile, the violence is metastasizing and the threat is growing.
Officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans never saw it coming.
The white minivan pulled over on Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Ark., in 2010 came back registered to a church in Ohio. Inside the vehicle were a Bible and some documents quoting Scripture.
Minutes later, Evans lay dying in the ditch and Paudert was sprawled on the roadway, their bodies tattered by two dozen bullets from an AK-47.
The killers: members of the sovereign citizen movement, which the officers had never heard of.
“They didn’t realize that there are people at war with this country who are not international terrorists,” said Bob Paudert, then West Memphis police chief and father of one of the slain officers.
“These people are willing to kill and be killed for their beliefs. And they are more dangerous to us in law enforcement than international terrorists.” […]
Before you click on anything and wander off, allow me to introduce Mr. Leonard Zeskind, the author of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, which I’m currently working my way through with much fascination & horror:
Leonard Zeskind is the president of the Institute for Research &
Education on Human Rights and has spent the last 30 years studying
white nationalism. He recently sat down for an interview at the Hale
Center for Journalism at KCPT with The Kansas City Star’s Judy L. Thomas to talk about the threat he said white nationalists pose and how to combat them.
For more on domestic terrorism, go to flatlandkc.org.
Video by Todd Feeback. Interview conducted by Judy L. Thomas.
Below, Mr. Zeskind spends just over an hour discussing his book. The presentation took place in May 2009 at a branch of the Kansas City Public Library and provides lots of good info. If you prefer to listen to it at your leisure, you can download the MP3 file (as well as other formats) from the Internet Archive:
It can be a fun—a stress reliever of sorts—to point & laugh mockingly at the “wingnuts” and “tea baggers”, but these people aren’t kidding. They see the demographic changes in the U.S. as an existential threat (to their white privilege, which it is), and they truly believe that the loss of said privilege means they’re being persecuted and some sort of genocide is being inflicted upon them (both of which are patently absurd notions).
Thanks to the pandering & scare mongering of right-wing politicians, media outlets and sundry grifters, white nationalist hate & racism and extreme far-right Christian ideologies have been brought into the mainstream and allowed to spread, negatively influencing otherwise decent people. They’re not a joke—they’re playing for keeps. Regard what’s happening before your eyes with a cavalier attitude at your peril.
Last but not least, here are several of the people & places I read about last night in Mr. Zeskind’s book. It covers some of the Christian Identity stuff as well as white nationalism. You know what the worst part was, to me? How utterly normal they seemed until they started expressing their racism & bigotry:
Twenty years ago, the media was crawling all over Elohim City, as
suspicions about links to the Oklahoma City bombing and ties to the
bomber Timothy McVeigh were alleged. Federal authorities never confirmed any connections. The 400-acre secluded enclave has housed several extremists in the white supremacist movement, including James Ellison. Ellison is the former leader of the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord, a white supremacist paramilitary encampment near the Missouri-Arkansas border that was raided by federal authorities in 1985. Ellison settled at Elohim City after serving several years in prison for weapons offenses and racketeering. Now in his mid-70s, Ellison has been at Elohim City for two decades.
Just a reminder that these extremist jihadi thugs are the enemy of every decent, law abiding person, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. They kill rich & poor, men & women, elderly & children, and Christian & Muslim with equal abandon.
Witnesses who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals said the explosion at Yantaya Mosque in Jos came as a leading cleric who preaches peaceful co-existence was addressing a crowd during the holy month of Ramadan. At least 29 people were killed.
Another bomb exploded at Shagalinku, a restaurant patronised by elite politicians. Mark Lipdo of the Christian Stefanos Foundation says at least 15 people died there.
Forty seven others were wounded in the twin Jos attacks.
Jos has been targeted in the past by bomb blasts claimed by Boko Haram that have killed hundreds of people.
Earlier on Sunday a suicide bomber entered the Redeemed Christian Church of God in the Jigawa area on the outskirts of Potiskum and detonated his explosives.
Four worshippers died instantly with a fifth succumbing to her injuries shortly afterwards in hospital. “The victims included a woman and her two children, the pastor and another worshipper,” said a police officer, who helped remove the bodies.
After having had my first DSLR (an entry-level Canon with an APS-C sensor) for about 18 months, I finally decided that I prefer prime lenses to normal or telephoto zoom lenses. The main reason is because it enables me to afford faster lenses (lenses with a larger maximum aperture) and therefore take sharper photos in lower light. The secondary reason is because the higher end telephoto zoom lenses are super heavy—for me, anyway—especially if they have image stabilization, which is pretty much a must unless you’re using a tripod.
So I needed one more prime lens, something wider than my 40mm pancake lens. Luckily, towards the end of last year Canon introduced the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM with a price tag under $200. To make sure it would work for me I used my 18-55mm kit lens to take photos at both 24mm and 40mm. It did indeed work for me, so I ordered one.
I love it—almost as much as my 40mm, but not quite.
Once it arrived, I decided to take out all my prime lenses (except the 50mm f/1.8 II, otherwise known as the “plastic fantastic” or “nfity fifty”, which I hate). I lined them up and proceeded to do some tests. For readers who may not know, the “effective” focal length is what it would be comparable to on a camera with a full frame sensor (for Canon cameras with APS-C sensors you multiply the focal length by 1.6, so 24 * 1.6 = 38.4 (rounded down to 38mm). The minimum focusing distance (MFD) is how close you can get to your subject and still be able to focus on it clearly, and the angle of view (AOV) is exactly what it sounds like.
Since this was just a practice exercise for me to understand the differences in the focal lengths, I wasn’t concerned with lighting and didn’t drag out the tripod until I used the macro lens, so some images are less than razor sharp. Most of the images were shot in AV (aperture priority) mode.
The following is a list of what I tested and the results.
EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM: 38mm effective, AOV 59° 10’, MFD 6.30 in
EF 40mm f/2.8 STM: 64mm effective, AOV 57° 30’, MFD 11.81 in
EF 85mm f/1.8 USM: 136mm effective, AOV 28° 30’, MFD 2.79 ft
EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM: 160mm effective, AOV 24°, MFD 1 ft
The general rule of thumb is that you use extension tubes with wide/normal lenses and close-up lenses with telephoto lenses: 250D (+4 dioptres) with 30 to 135mm lenses, 500D (+2 dioptres) with 70 to 300mm. Both extension tubes and close-up lenses can be stacked. With close-up lenses you might lose a bit of sharpness, especially if you use cheap ones (which is why I opted for the Canon brand), but you don’t lose any light. With extension tubes you don’t lose any sharpness but you lose some light (how much depends on how many you stack). With some of the cheap extension tubes your auto-focus won’t work because the necessary electronics aren’t present (again, I opted for Canon—the build quality is great).
Here’s a reference image of the paw print motif on my coffee cup for the close-ups:
Here’s the same 24mm lens with a 24mm extension tube added to it. As you can see, it’s a bit blurry due to the slow shutter speed, but it’s even larger than 1:1 life size (as with the macro). I don’t know what the actual ratio is because I hate math and was too lazy to look up the formula to calculate it. BTW, that shadow you see on the left side is actually the camera lens—yes, it was that close.
Please ignore the dust on the phone!
100mm Macro Lens
Best for actual macro work as there is no loss of sharpness or light. Nice bokeh, good for portraits (but the 85mm is better, IMO). Also good as a short-medium telephoto lens, but it is heavy and has no image stabilization (IS), so plenty of light will be the best bet (so faster shutter speeds can be used to compensate for camera shake). Forget trying to do handheld video with it.
There’s not a significant difference between the results of the 85mm with the 250D close-up lens and the 24mm lens at MFD, so I think the 85mm will be best reserved for portraits, as originally intended, or for skittish creatures who don’t like you getting too close. As with the 100mm macro above, the lack of IS means it’s not suitable for video, but the wider f/1.8 aperture allows for more light & faster shutter speeds in overcast or nighttime photo situations, so that’s another plus. It has a nice bokeh.
Still my favorite. Decent bokeh, nice walking around/street lens. Also good as a portrait lens (remember, I’m on ASP-C sensor). To be honest, I’ve never attempted to do video with it—maybe that needs to be my next test. Using the 25mm extension tube makes close-ups almost life size—another plus, in a pinch.
Very nice nice walking around/street lens—AOV is similar to that of the human eye. Nice close-ups, but you need to get in really close, so it’s only useful in that regard if you’re shooting something that’s inanimate or not skittish. The 25mm extension tube makes you get way too close, so maybe the 12mm one would work nicely in a pinch. I haven’t tested this one for video yet either as that’s not really my thing. My understanding is that with wider angled lenses like this, IS isn’t as critical. I guess I need to find out if that holds true with an APS-C.
This is not about being an apologist or deflecting criticism of extremist elements in Islam—as some would have you believe—it’s about how incredibly frustrating it gets to be expected to answer for extremists that you have absolutely zero control over and/or to carry the burden of guilt for their actions. Emphasis mine:
BOSTON — Yusufi Vali was hunched over his computer at this city’s biggest mosque, where he is executive director, when the first phone call came. The police had killed a man a few miles away. Soon there were reports that the man was a Muslim who had been under investigation for terrorism.
And so the news media inquiries began. More than 100 calls came to the mosque over the next few days. Mr. Vali would explain, over and over, that the young man fatally shot after pulling a knife on the police on June 2 had only the slightest connection to the mosque: He had been hired by a security contractor to guard the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan in 2013.
No, he was not a regular at prayers. No, Mr. Vali did not recall meeting him. No, he could not shed light on any purported plan to behead a police officer, except to say that such a thing would be abhorrent.
“It weighs on you,” Mr. Vali, a rail-slender 31-year-old Princeton graduate, said of the fallout from the latest allegations of terrorist plotting in the name of Islam. “I don’t have control over what these people do. It’s frustrating to have it put on us.” […]
BTW, the article mentions Charles Jacobs, founder of the non-profit group Americans for Peace and Tolerance (a misnomer if there ever was one), which is mentioned in the article. You might want to read up on his history in case you bump into him in your online travels.
I wonder how many threads I’d have to pull on to find one that leads to connections with other groups and/or individuals in the Islamophobia industry…
I was just re-reading the article now that my mental batteries are recharged, and this paragraph irked the hell out of me:
The accumulation of Boston malefactors makes for a disturbing list, especially if it is now updated with Usaamah Rahim, the man killed by the police this month, and two other men who were charged Friday with plotting with him and supporting the Islamic State. The Boston Globe was prompted last week to ask in a headline, 𠇊re Boston terrorism cases a trend?”
Why is the list so disturbing? Even if you go by anti-Muslim activist Jacobs count, that’s less than 20 people out of an estimated Muslim population of 70,000. If I chose 70,000 members of any group in the U.S., how difficult do you suppose it would be to find 15-20 murderous criminals among them? I’m guessing not very.
I’m not trying to downplay the danger said (terrorist) criminals would pose, but I find it absurd that they seem to be perceived as extra dangerous simply because they’re Muslim. If you’re a citizen of Boston, what do you suppose statistics would tell you about your chances of dying at the hands of a radical Muslim terrorist vs at the hands of a more garden variety American criminal?
How many Bostonians were murdered last year? In the past five years? Ten years? What percentage of them were killed by Muslims? By non-Muslims? How about nationwide—which group is more murderous, Muslims or non-Muslims?
I’m just sayin’.
It’s nice to hear what things looked like from the sane side of the street. It’s not a very long article so I tried not to borrow too much, but I felt the neo-Nazi recruiting aspect was important. It’s heartening to know that some of the protesters defected after seeing the hatred coming from Ritzheimer’s group. BTW, the Marty being referred to is the author’s husband.
I can only imagine how horrifying it must have been for Jews to see some creep running around with an SS symbol on his shirt.
These are the people Pamela Geller & her hateful cohorts inspire.
My husband heard about the protest and asked me if we could counter-protest. After discussing the pros (defending another minority group’s right to worship without fear, creating a little bit of peace in the world) and the cons (violating Shabbat by driving from Tucson), we decided to go. […]
Soon after, Marty, who had been wandering our side of the street, came to check on me. He reported that he had seen a neo-Nazi wearing a T-shirt with an SS symbol on the other side of the street. Another counter-protester said he’d seen that the neo-Nazis had been invited and were instructed not to come in identifiable clothing because they wanted to use the protest as a recruiting event. At this point, many of the people who were on the other side of the street just to support “First Amendment rights” crossed the street and joined our side, due to the hatred they were seeing displayed by the original protesters. […]
H/T to @rabiasquared, who retweeted the story:
Supporting worshippers at Phoenix mosque, local Jews met with gratitude http://t.co/LWd4uDch0A
This is a follow-up on yesterday’s front page article about Robert Doggart, the failed congressional candidate whose plot to attack innocent Muslims In Delaware County, NY was foiled by federal agents.
In that thread I mentioned that there’s more than one Islamberg—the one in Texas that I wrote about last year and the one in New York that Doggart was planning to attack—this is about a third one in South Carolina called Holy Islamville. As with the others, local police have had no problems with them.
An article just came in through my Google Alerts this evening mentioning Islamville. In light of reports on Doggart’s plan to massacre Muslims, the York County Sheriff, Bruce Bryant, has made it clear that he’s having none of that:
There is “no truth at all,” he said, to rumors or media reports that there has ever been a Muslim training ground at Holy Islamville.“This guy who wanted to cause chaos in New York, who planned to go after innocent people and also was targeting law enforcement who tried to stop him - we will not tolerate that in York County,” he said. “The people who live at Islamville, and the people who gather at Islamville, they are citizens of America, this state and York County, and we will do everything we can to protect them as we would for any other resident of York County.” […]
—Sheriff Bruce Bryant
Islamville residents have kept an “open relationship” with law enforcement for three decades, Bryant said, and his officers routinely visit the community. There is “no truth at all,” he said, to rumors or media reports that there has ever been a Muslim training ground at Holy Islamville.
“That is plainly untrue,” Bryant said. “There has never been any kind of training camp, obstacle course or anything there. As far as York County law enforcement is concerned, there is no threat there and never has been a threat.
“York County residents need to know that these people are a part of the community, and that the community is safe.”
Islamville residents deserve and will receive equal treatment from police in York County, he said.
“I do not believe what they believe concerning religion,” Bryant said, “but these are people who live in York County who will be treated with respect and who will receive the best that the York County Sheriff’s Office can offer. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in this country. This is America.” […]
Compare the above with reports by Clarion—there are several, but here’s one from 2013 (do not link) which describes Islamville as a site “run by a radical group named Muslims of the Americas (MOA),” which they assert has connections to a terrorist group in Pakistan called Jamaat ul-Fuqra (JF for short).
If you Google JF’s name you’ll mostly get links to to right-wing sites screeching about impending doom and dhimmitude, however buried in there is also an article from October 2008 written by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point. I wrote about the CTC back in 2013, if you want to know more about them. They didn’t seem to reach any concrete conclusion about the attitudes of JF/MOA at the time of the writing.
A quick search of the CTC site turned up four additional articles, the most recent (from 2010) with regard to someone named Clement Rodney Hampton-El:
A member of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspiracy, Hampton-El was convicted in 1996 with the “blind shaykh,” `Umar `Abd al-Rahman, and others in connection with the “Day of Terror” plot against New York City landmarks. […]
I could find no mention of Hampton-El after that. Presumably he’s either dead or sitting in a federal prison somewhere.
The SPLC wrote an article on them as well back in 2002. It too mentions Hampton-El, his time in Afghanistan, and his involvement with the 1993 WTC bombing. Included is discussion of Jilani (sometimes spelled Gilani in other articles). There was also a bunch of stuff about white supremacists & the NOI, but my eyes were starting to glaze over by the time I got to that part so I quit reading. A quick search only returned the report linked to above along with three other articles in which JF was only mentioned in comments, not the articles themselves.
Last but not least, the ADL wrote a profile on them 22 years ago, back in 1993 (PDF). A search of the ADL’s website returns five additional articles, all from their archives with the most recent being from 2002. I only skimmed the articles, but they seemed primarily concerned with antisemitism—not surprising since that’s a big part of the ADL’s mission. I don’t know if the absence of more recent articles means they have ceased expressing such things, but I would assume so since the ADL isn’t shy about pointing out antisemitism. In any event, antisemitism—as noxious as it is—isn’t tantamount to terrorism.
So who should we believe? The scaremongers from The Clarion Project and Fox News? Should we make an assessment based on old reports by the CTC, SPLC and ADL, or do we listen to current local law enforcement in SC, NY and TX who say there’s nothing to be concerned about? I obviously can’t answer that for you, all I can do is share what I’ve found and point out that it seems the group and its communes have been largely quiet & law abiding for quite some time now.
I’m sure there’s more that could be dug up, not the least of which is info on the websites & organizations dedicated to demonizing Muslims and pushing fear (and the connections between them), but I have a life and a full time job, so the info above is all I have time for right now.
That’s all. For now…
P.S. Let me kow if you find any typos and I’ll correct them in the AM. I’m to tired to proofread right now. TIA.
These are photos of a dogwood tree I mentioned having taken on Saturday, which I’ve just now gotten around to selecting & uploading.
All were taken with my 40mm prime lens and shot in AV mode.
If any of you photo enthusiasts/pros want to critique the photos, please have at it—I’m a graphic designer, so I’m familiar with the process and won’t be easily offended. I’ll go ahead and add my own narrative regarding my choices.
I took a total of 48 photos, 10 of which immediately got deleted. I was able to narrow the remaining 38 down to 10 that I felt were the best of the lot, then finally winnowed it to the four you see below. I’m not 100% happy with any of them, for various reasons that I’ll explain below. Oh, and the other 28 that I’m not showing you? They’re not horrible. but neither are they very good—I’m keeping them primarily to try to figure out how/where I went wrong in shooting them.
- IMO, there are two problems with this one. The first is that the blossom on the left is almost cut off, which makes it look like sloppy composition (which it was). The second is the distracting white in the upper left. It's also a bit soft.
My best bet probably would have been to move slightly to my left to give the blossom on the left some breathing room and get rid of the white in the background. Alternatively I could've moved a bit to my left and moved in a step closer. The only change made in Lightroom was to apply the lens correction profile to get rid of vignetting.
- This is the same group of blossoms as above, from a bit closer and at a slightly different angle. IOW, I basically made the corrections mentioned above, though not consciously. Overall I'm pretty happy with the composition, however also it's a bit soft--even more so than the one above, especially at the center of the blossom, which is the focal point of the photo. By pixel peeping I was able to see that I had focused on the tip of the left petal instead of the center. Again, sloppiness. *SIGH*
Changes made in Lightroom consisted of applying the lens correction profile to get rid of vignetting and increasing the exposure by 1/3 stop.
- Same set of flowers again, zero changes made in Lightroom. The composition on this one was almost (but not quite) acceptable. I had moved back a step or two, but yet again I wasn't paying enough attention to what was in my frame so it looks sort of... unbalanced.
The other thing that bothered me was the red of the brick wall being more visible in this shot. I felt like it was fighting with the pink of the flowers--clashing with them, distracting from them. Yuck. So I decided to try for B&W to see if that would help...
- Converting this to B&W definitely solved the problem of the red brick wall. I made several adjustments in Lightroom--in addition to applying the lens correction profile I adjusted the white balance, exposure and contrast. I rarely do conversions to B&W, so I'm unsure of how it looks to a better trained eye. Should I have made the flowers brighter still? Anyone?
- I'm only including this one because it came out sharp enough to please me, or at least the center of the flower did. The composition is just okay--nothing to write home about--but apart form that I'm not sure how I could have made it technically better. Higher f-stop for increased depth of field? But then I'd lose my bokeh... Maybe use a tripod and focus on different parts then merge them (I know there's a name for that, but I can't think of it at the moment). Ugh, I hate dragging the tripod around, even though I have a good one now and would have only have had to carry it across the street. Any suggestions?
As with #2, changes made in Lightroom consisted of applying the lens correction profile to get rid of vignetting & increasing the exposure by 1/3 stop.
- Same photo as above at 100% magnification. Cropped in Photoshop, used the spot healing brush to get rid of some distracting bits that looked ginormous at this size, and adjusted the levels to improve the color (it looked kind of grayish when viewed up close like this).
So that’s it. Hope I didn’t bore you to death. ;-)
In passing today I saw a tweet that had a quote which I looked up and found was from a book by named The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom by a guy named Michael Shermer. I can’t even remember what the quote was now, but I looked up the author and it seems he’s an atheist.
On his website, which I ended up at via Wikipedia, he says the following (emphasis mine):
…a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”
So I went back to his Wiki page and saw that a woman named Eugenie Scott, the Director of the National Center for Science Education Director, had emphatically disagreed with him because the existence or non-existence of God isn’t testable and science is based on empirical evidence, being able to test things, and is limited to the natural world—i.e. science, scientific data, doesn’t compel any particular theological or philosophical belief.
At around the 42:00 mark she leads up to talking about Shermer (and Dawkins, et al.), and she actually mentions him beginning around 43:00:
I went around looking for the definition of science/scientific methodology, and she appears to be 100% correct. So basically, I guess my point is that it seems there are some individual scientists who don’t think God exists, and there are skeptics/atheists who—based on scientific evidence (or rather the lack of it)—don’t think God exists because his existence is unnecessary to explain the natural world, but there’s nothing in science that says any such thing because religious belief and/or philosophy is not what science is about.
I’m not trying to pick a fight with you guys, I’m just saying that she makes sense, perfect sense. What she’s saying in the video is what I’ve (inelegantly) tried to express many times here—that science & religion have completely different methodologies & purposes and it therefore strikes me as rather absurd to try to prove or disprove one using (the methodology of) the other.
I’m really, really glad I found someone who clearly articulates what I knew on a gut level had to be correct. I haven’t watched all 87 minutes of her talk yet, but I’m very much looking forward to doing so soon.
That is all.
This looks pretty cool. It’s also more than a little unsettling. I wouldn’t be too keen on the ghostly visage of the old 1 World Trade Center building suddenly looming into view, and then almost immediately fading away… especially while in the elevator of the new one on the way to the new observatory 1,268 feet above the ground.
The idea of it starting out encased in bedrock is kind creepy too because… people jumped, fell, and/or were buried in the rubble down there. *shudder*
Yeah, okay—need to stop thinking about this now.
An imposingly realistic vision of the old 1 World Trade Center, the ultimately doomed north tower, will begin appearing next month in a most unlikely place: the five special elevators servicing the observatory atop the new 1 World Trade Center.
From the moment the doors close until they reopen 47 seconds later on the 102nd floor, a seemingly three-dimensional time-lapse panorama will unfold on three walls of the elevator cabs, as if one were witnessing 515 years of history unfolding at the tip of Manhattan Island.
For less than four seconds (roughly proportional to the time the twin towers stood), jarringly familiar pinstripe facades will loom into view on one wall of the cab. Then, in a quick dissolve, they will evanesce. […]