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The Ghost Map – Steven Johnson


The Ghost Map

The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

Steven Johnson

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 19, 2006

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group


A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year From Steven Johnson, the dynamic thinker routinely compared to James Gleick, Dava Sobel, and Malcolm Gladwell, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner about a real-life historical hero, Dr. John Snow. It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure — garbage removal, clean water, sewers — necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories and interconnectedness of the spread of disease, contagion theory, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.

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The Ghost Map – Steven Johnson

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Ocasio-Cortez: 70 percent tax on mega-rich could pay for Green New Deal

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New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a lot of big ideas, including the Green New Deal, an economy-wide green jobs initiative to combat climate change. But big ideas require big funding — and she has a new plan to make that happen.

In an interview with Anderson Cooper on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Ocasio-Cortez floated the possibility of taxing the wealthiest tax brackets — people who make $10 million a year or more — up to 60 or 70 percent to fund the Green New Deal. “There’s an element where, yeah, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes,” she said.

A 70 percent tax rate might seem astronomically high, but only if you have a short memory. “Under Eisenhower, the top earners paid a 91 percent marginal rate,” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias points out. Under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, that rate was closer to 70 percent, and now it’s around 37 percent.

Right now, someone who makes $10 million gets taxed at the same rate as a person who makes $550,000. Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive tax would basically ensure that there are more tax rate milestones between the wealthy and the ultra-wealthy. She’s suggesting a rate that rises as you make more money, with steeper percentages kicking in above certain benchmarks.

If that sounds radical to you, AOC is fine with that. “I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country,” she said.

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Ocasio-Cortez: 70 percent tax on mega-rich could pay for Green New Deal

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The Feather Thief – Kirk Wallace Johnson


The Feather Thief
Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
Kirk Wallace Johnson

Genre: Nature

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: April 24, 2018

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

“Fascinating from the first page to the last—you won’t be able to put it down.” — Southern Living A rollicking true-crime adventure and a thought-provoking exploration of the human drive to possess natural beauty for readers of The Stranger in the Woods , The Lost City of Z , and The Orchid Thief . On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

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The Feather Thief – Kirk Wallace Johnson

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Some of Trump’s Biggest Supporters Are Furious About the Syria Strike

Mother Jones

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Some of President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are going ballistic over last night’s strike in Syria, which the commander-in-chief ordered in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week. Many on the far right say war simply isn’t what they voted for. White nationalist Richard Spencer accused the president of “betrayal.”

Of course, not all of Trump’s right-wing internet supporters are criticizing the strike:

InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones appears ambivalent about the whole thing. One headline on Jones’ site Wednesday read, “REPORT: EVIDENCE MOUNTS THAT SYRIAN GAS ATTACK IS FALSE FLAG.” On his show, Jones has suggested that Trump is being deceived by the left on the Syria issue and even said today that president is “disintegrating in my eyes on so many levels.” At the same time, Jones has said that perhaps Trump does understand what is really going on in Syria and that the airstrikes were actually a brilliant geopolitical move. “We’ll see if this is a Machiavellian stroke of genius by Trump for the good, or whether he’s been manipulated by the neo-cons toward a wider war,” he said.

At least one Trump backer, internet super-troll Charles Johnson, claimed the United States may not have even attacked Assad, according to Politico:

Meanwhile, internet troll Charles Johnson was not prepared to accept that the U.S. really had struck at Assad, saying that a source at CENTCOM told him the strike had actually targeted the Islamic State. “I’m very skeptical of any claims made in the media on military matters,” he said. “Especially since the Iraq War.”

At the same time, reaction among Republican elected officials has been mixed—some have applauded the move, while others are criticizing him for not seeking Congressional approval first.

And then there’s Rush Limbaugh, who posted this on his website Wednesday evening: “My message to scared liberals: Syria lied to Obama and Kerry about getting rid of WMD…This attack was taken to uphold Obama’s honor. Trump’s ‘Red Line’ was lying to America’s first black president. Does that make it better?”


Some of Trump’s Biggest Supporters Are Furious About the Syria Strike

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Flint Officials Were Just Charged With Multiple Felonies in the City’s Water Crisis

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged two former emergency managers with multiple felonies in an ongoing investigation of the dangerous levels of lead that turned up in Flint’s drinking water. Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, who were tasked with overseeing the beleaguered city’s finances between 2013 and 2015, were accused of false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office, and willful neglect. Schuette also charged two former Flint officials, Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson, with false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. If found guilty, Earley and Ambrose would face up to 46 years in prison; Croft and Johnson would face 40 years.

Schuette opened the investigation in January this year; to date, 13 former city and state officials have been charged.

“All too prevalent in this Flint Water Investigation was a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” said Schuette in a statement.

The charges call into question the efficacy of the emergency manager role, which enables the governor to appoint a representative to help balance a budget of economically failing cities. Other states have similar roles, but Michigan’s is the most expansive: Emergency managers have the power to cancel city contracts, unilaterally draft policy, privatize public services, fire elected officials, and more. Flint was one of the first cities in Michigan to be assigned an emergency manager, in 2011.

In 2014, under the management of Earley, the city switched water sources to the Flint River—a cost-saving measure that would prove to be disastrous. (Earley would go on to become the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools before stepping down in February this year.) In March 2015, as residents were reporting foul-smelling, tainted water coming from the taps, the Flint City Council voted to “do all things necessary” to switch back to Detroit’s water system—its former water source. Then-acting emergency manager Ambrose nixed the vote, calling it “incomprehensible.” By the end of the year, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had declared a state of emergency because of children’s soaring blood lead levels.

Tuesday’s charges come just days after congressional Republicans quietly closed a yearlong investigation into the crisis, and two weeks after Congress cleared $170 million to address the Flint water crisis and help other areas with lead-tainted water. A recent Reuters investigation found nearly 3,000 areas with blood lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint at the peak of the crisis.


Flint Officials Were Just Charged With Multiple Felonies in the City’s Water Crisis

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White Nationalist Leader Doubles Down on Support for Donald Trump

Mother Jones

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Last May, William Johnson stepped down as a delegate for Donald Trump to the GOP national convention after Mother Jones revealed him to be the leader of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. Reluctant to draw negative attention to Trump, Johnson has largely receded from view since then—until yesterday, when the Los Angeles Times reported that Johnson’s white nationalist super-PAC is funding pro-Trump radio ads set to run in more than a half dozen states.

“It is certainly to help Trump,” Johnson told me. “If you look at the content of the radio ad, it promotes what Trump stands for. And every time people read these things, it helps convince them. There’s been 50 years of propaganda on the other side, so it is going to take a long process to change people’s opinion and this is just one step in that direction.”

The spot will begin running on Saturday on The Political Cesspool, a show hosted by AFP co-director James Edwards, and on Liberty RoundTable, a radio program where Edwards is listed as a “columnist.” Trump’s son Donald Jr. has appeared on Liberty Roundtable with Edwards, and this week Trump’s son Eric also appeared on the show.

Unlike robocalls that Johnson recorded during the GOP primary in support of Trump, the new radio ads do not explicitly mention race. “Do you want a strong leader who will secure our borders and stop the flow of illegal aliens and radical Islamic terrorists,” the ad says in part. The ad discloses that it is paid for by “William Johnson, a farmer and a deplorable.”

Johnson had originally wanted to call himself “a farmer and a white nationalist,” he told me, but Edwards preferred “deplorable,” a term that’s been taken up by white supremacists on social media ever since Hillary Clinton thrust it into the election. “It’s tongue-in-cheek,” Johnson says. “It’s like the term ‘gay’ used to mean something else, and now it’s positive in the homosexual community. Maybe ‘deplorable’ will become a positive term.”

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White Nationalist Leader Doubles Down on Support for Donald Trump

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Senators Press Feds to Stop Locking Up Central American Families Who Have Fled for Their Lives

Mother Jones

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Roughly 30 Central American women and their children who are applying for asylum in the United States are being held outside Philadelphia in a federal immigration detention center called the Berks County Residential Center. Many have been there for more than a year, and in August, 22 mothers went on hunger strike to protest their prolonged detention. Now, a group of 17 Democratic senators, including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and current vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, have called on Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to release the families and end the practice of family detention.

“Many of these mothers have asylum claims based on rape, severe domestic violence, and murder threats,” the senators wrote in a letter released on Tuesday. “It is unconscionable to keep these children locked up and goes against our most fundamental values.” The children at Berks, who make up about half the population of detainees, range in age from 2 to 16 years old. Many have been held for months and, in some cases, more than a year. The senators said family detention is “wrong” and “should be ended immediately,” pointing to research showing that prolonged confinement is harmful to children’s physical and mental health.

The Berks Center is one of three family detention centers in the country. The other two, located in Texas, were opened by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to the surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the border. Around that time, the centers came under scrutiny for poor medical care, lack of access to legal council, and alleged sexual abuse. (Earlier this year, one former guard at Berks was sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting a teenage detainee.)

Last summer, the administration announced a series of reforms to reduce the length of confinement. Shortly afterward, a district court in California ordered the government to release migrant children within three to five days of their initial confinement, or within 20 days under extreme circumstances. The administration says it has taken steps to come into compliance with that court decision. Secretary Johnson has said his agency is detaining families for an average of 20 days or less, but advocates say the experience of the Berks mothers tells another story.

The 17 senators urged Johnson to review their cases and release them unless they are a serious flight risk or threat to public safety. Hillary Clinton has taken a similar position as her running mate and called for an end to family detention.

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Senators Press Feds to Stop Locking Up Central American Families Who Have Fled for Their Lives

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Put Down that Styrofoam Cup!

The iconic whitecoffeecupand clamshell take-out containers weall know so well are not REALLY Styrofoam, so lets make thatclear from the beginning. That doesnt make the items Im talkingabout any less dangerous, as youll see below, but its importantto clarify what we are talking about.

Thereal Styrofoamwas invented in 1941, is made by DowChemical, and is used exclusively in building insulation, to floatdocks, and in some molds for floral arrangements With very fewexceptions its colored light blue.

The white plastic items we incorrectly refer to as Styrofoam arevery similar yet different. Heres the difference:

The trademarked product called Styrofoam is produced usinga closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam.
The white disposablecoffeecups, coolers, takeoutcontainers, and packing peanuts refers to expanded (notextruded) polystyrene foam, which is sometimes referred toas EPS.

Now that we have cleared that up, heres why the disposablepolystyrene products we can find everywhere arehazardous tohuman and environmental health.

What Is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene is a petroleum-based lightweight plastic made fromstyrene, a synthetic chemical classified as apossible humancarcinogenby the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and theInternational Agency for Research on Cancer; andbenzene, aknown human carcinogen according to the EPA. It is about 95percent air and commonly used to make disposable beveragecontainers, coolers, meat and fish trays in supermarkets,packaging materials, and take-out food containers. You may seethe number 6 surrounded by arecycling symbolor the lettersPS on products made of polystyrene.

6 Reasons to Avoid Use of Polystyrene

The good news is that a slowly growing number of cities aroundthe world are phasing out or banning polystyrene. So far, morethan 100 cities have some type of ban on foam products. Thelatest city on the list isSan Francisco,whose ban affectingpacking peanuts, ice chests, to-gocoffeecups, meat and fishtrays, and dock floats goes into effect January 1, 2017. The cityalready had a ban on take-out containers since 2007.

Why all the fuss about these lightweight products? If your cityhasnt banned Styrofoam yet, you may want to initiate theprocess after reading this list.

1. Puts toxins in your food.
Would you like some toxins withyour coffee, soup, or beer? Trace amounts of styrene aswell as various chemical additives in polystyrene migrateinto food, which increases significantly in hot liquids,according toOlga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist at theEnvironmental Working Group. Although each individualdose may be very low, think about the cumulative effect!How many cups of coffee or microwaved noodles inpolystyrene cups have you consumed?

Foods and beverages in polystyrene that are more likely toleach toxic substancesinclude those that are hot (e.g.,coffee, tea, soup, chili, reheated leftovers), oily (e.g., Frenchfries, burgers, pizza, salad dressings), and/or contain acid(e.g., tomatoes, citrus) or alcohol (e.g., beer, wine). Thepictures above say it all. I personally took it a couple ofweeks ago when my mother asked me for a cup of tea at anaffair we were at. You can see from the picture how the cupstarted breaking down in the hot liquid. I showed it to thepeople in the room and they couldnt believe it.

Along with being a possible carcinogen, styrene is also aneurotoxin and accumulates in fatty tissue. The adversehealth effects associated with exposure to styrene includefatigue, reduced ability to concentrate, increase in abnormalpulmonary function, disrupted hormone function (includingthyroid), headache, and irritation of the eyes and nose.Check out the Worker exposure bullet for more about theimpact of exposure to styrene.

2. Puts workers in danger.Tens of thousands of workers areexposed to styrene in the manufacture of rubber, plastics,and resins. Chronic exposure is associated with centralnervous system symptoms, including headache, fatigue,weakness, impaired hearing, and depression as well aseffects on kidney function. A newstudy(2016) reportedexcess numbers of deaths associated with lung cancer,ovarian cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD) among such workers.

3. Lasts (almost) forever.It takes about 500 years forpolystyrene to decompose in the environment. Since thevast majority of polystyrene is not recycled (see What youcan do), our landfills are harboring a significant amount ofpolystyrene: by volume,25 to 30 percentof landfillmaterials are plastics, including Styrofoam.

4. Contributes to air pollution and climate change.Ifpolystyrene is burned or incinerated, it releases toxic carbonmonoxide into the air. If you burn trash or have a fireplace,never ever burn polystyrene.

The manufacturing process for polystyrene foam alsoreleases harmful hydrocarbons, which combine with nitrogenoxides in the presence of sunlight and form a dangerous airpollutant at ground level called tropospheric ozone, which isassociated with health effects such as wheezing, shortnessof breath, nausea,asthma, and bronchitis.

5. Comes from a non-sustainable source.Polystyrene ismade from petroleum, a non-sustainable product. ThisStyrofoam-like product is an environmental hazard fromstart to finish!

6. Harms wildlife.Polystyrene often makes its way into theenvironment, especially waterways. As it breaks down, thepieces are frequently consumed by both land and marineanimals, causing blockage of their digestive system,choking, and death.

What You Can Do

Recycle/repurpose!Polystyrene can be recycled in someareas. You can locate suchrecycling opportunitiesnear youby going toEarth911or checking with your local recyclingcompanies or city/county recycling directory. Once you finda location or two, you may want to call ahead to make sureexactly what they accept. The packing polystyrene blocksare accepted by some facilities for repurposing into buildingmaterials.

If you work for a company that handles a significant amountof polystyrene, you might look for a facility that will acceptlarge volumes of the material. In all cases, remove anylabels, tape, and other items from the polystyrene that couldcontaminate the recycling process.

Reuse.If you receive packages that contain the polystyrenepacking peanuts, you can reuse them for your own packingor donate them to a local UPS or shipping store. Blocks ofpolystyrene also can be reused for personal or businesspurposes.

Pick it up.If you are out walkingand you see polystyrenecups or other debris, pick it up and dispose of it (unless itsa form you can recycle). At least you reduce the chances ofthe plastic being consumed by wildlife, ending up inwaterways, or clogging sewer lines.

Say no to polystyrene.Choose not to buy any type ofpolystyrene products (e.g., cups, dishes, containers) oritems that are packaged in this plastic. When I eat out, I askfor an alternative to polystyrene for leftovers, and when Iorder take out I bring my own glass containers when I can.You can also bring your own stainless steel or ceramic coffeemug when visiting a coffee shop or any establishment thatserves coffee in polystyrene.

Be a maverick.
If you work or volunteer in a facility wherepolystyrene cups are used in the break room, introduce theidea of switching to ceramic mugs. Remind the powers thatbe that this switch will save money! Everyone has a mug ortwo at home they can part with for the cause. Yes, the mugswill need to be rinsed, but were all adults now, right?

Reheat safely.
Never reheat food or beverages inpolystyrene containers. Use ceramic, stoneware, or glass.

Image viaSam Johnson

Bottom Line.
Styrofoam really is bad for your health
Earth 911.
Recycling mystery: expanded polystyrene
Earth Resource Foundation.
Polystyrene foam report
Environmental Protection Agency.
Environmental Protection Agency.
Advancing sustainable material management: 2013 factsheet
Ruder AM et al. Mortality among styrene-exposed workers in the reinforced plasticboatbuilding industry.
Occupational and Environmental Medicine2016 Feb; 73(2): 97-102
San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco bans Styrofoam and other cities should follow
Washington Post.
You have never actually used a Styrofoam cup, plate, or takeout box

Written by Andrea Donsky. Reposted with permission fromNaturally Savvy.

Photo Credit: Sam Johnson/Flickr

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Put Down that Styrofoam Cup!

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The Feds Could Stop Hiring Private Prison Companies to Detain Immigrants

Mother Jones

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will reexamine its use of private prison companies to hold immigration detainees, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced today. The decision comes less than two weeks after the Justice Department announced that it would close out its contracts with private prison companies, a decision that affects approximately 22,600 prisoners in 13 federal prisons.

Last Friday, Johnson directed an advisory council to evaluate whether DHS should “move in the same direction” as the Justice Department. The council is expected to report back by November 30.

If Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the DHS division that controls migrant detention, were to end its contracts with for-profit prison companies, the decision could be more significant than the Justice Department’s announcement. While private prisons oversee about 12 percent of federal inmates, for-profit companies operate 46 ICE facilities and oversee a daily average of 24,567 people, or 73 percent of immigration detainees.

The Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, the country’s two largest for-profit prison companies, together control 8 of the country’s 10 biggest immigration detention centers. Both corporations’ stock prices took a severe hit after the Justice Department’s decision on August 18, and both are now facing class-action lawsuits from investors. Johnson’s announcement sent their stocks falling once again, with CCA slipping 9.4 percent and GEO falling 6 percent after the announcement.

ICE’s immigration detention capacity has skyrocketed over the past two decades. Private prisons have played a key role in expanding ICE’s capacity to hold migrants. For-profit prison operators controlled 62 percent of immigration detention beds in 2014, up from 25 percent in 2005. The rewards for private operators of immigration detention centers can be huge: Last year, CCA made 14 percent of its total revenue from one 2,400-bed facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center, after it obtained a four-year, $1 billion contract from ICE.

Today, ICE is required by law to fill an average of 34,000 beds daily, a requirement instituted in 2010, when former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) added the private detention quota to the DHS budget. As of December 2015, around 400,000 migrants were detained by ICE annually.

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The Feds Could Stop Hiring Private Prison Companies to Detain Immigrants

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Why Are Dallas Police Linking the Shooter to Rap Group "Public Enemy"?

Mother Jones

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In a press release late Friday, the Dallas Police Department provided details about their investigation into the gunman in Thursday’s mass shooting, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, a local resident and former soldier who served in Afghanistan. They said that a search of Johnson’s home revealed “bomb making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics.” Strangely, the Dallas PD included a couple of select details about Johnson’s Facebook account:

The suspect’s Facebook account included the following names and information: Fahed Hassen, Richard GRIFFIN aka Professor Griff, GRIFFIN embraces a radical form of Afrocentrism, and GRIFFIN wrote a book A Warriors Tapestry.

It is unclear why the Dallas PD chose to include this information regarding Griffin, who was a member of the seminal 1980s rap group Public Enemy. The press release contained no further context about it.

Johnson’s Facebook page (which is no longer available online) reportedly contained a photo of Johnson posing with Griffin, who quickly took to Twitter to say that he had no relationship with the attacker.

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Why Are Dallas Police Linking the Shooter to Rap Group "Public Enemy"?

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