Surfers, Black Lives Matter, and the Star Count: It’s the news roundup from Britain

Let’s start with the star count: Back in the winter sometime, I posted information about an effort to study light pollution by asking people to count the stars they could see inside the constellation Orion. If you’d like to see the map that compiled from that study, here’s the link.

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I know I said the news was from Britain, but what the hell, I’m sitting in Britain and I’m typing this, so this comes from Britain, even if the news is from the U.S. It’s too good to miss: Someone from Nebraska is suing every gay person on the planet. In federal court.

She’s not claiming gay people have broken any laws. In fact, her hand-written, seven-page statement doesn’t talk about law. She quotes the Bible and she quotes a dictionary.

Now, I’ll admit to having misspelled a word or two in my time–possibly more than two. And ignorance of the law is no defense, so I might be worth suing, although first we should establish that a lawsuit is the appropriate remedy.

But the Bible–. Folks, it’s time we all sat down and had a serious discussion about whether people have to follow the rules of religions they don’t belong to. And if the answer turns out to be yes, we need to talk about which religion’s rules to follow. Because the world’s full of religions, and they have different rules. We’ll find a few areas of overlap, but that’s not going to be enough.

I predict a messy, uncomfortable discussion.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the woman bringing the lawsuit is representing herself in court.

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Relevant photo (it happens sometimes): A Black Lives Matter demonstration in Camelford, Cornwall.

Enough of that. Let’s go back to Britain:

After a slave trader’s statue was toppled into the Bristol harbor, British conversations about black lives matter have focused heavily on the symbolic. In other words, on statues. So a group of white, far-right activists felt called upon to gather in London so they could protect its historic statues.

To avoid violence, Black Lives Matter called off the protest it had scheduled for that day, although other groups didn’t.

The far-right activists drank; threw bottles, smoke grenades, and flares at the cops,; gave the Nazi salute: took off their shirts; and pissed on statues, possibly on the theory that they need liquid to grow.

To be fair, not all of them did all those things. That’s a collective portrait.

A hundred people were arrested.

They made a point of claiming Winston Churchill as one of their own, possibly because someone had painted, “Was a racist” below his statue. I’ll let a tweet from @dannywallace sum the situation up:

“-  Police are protecting a statue from people who want to protect it from people who don’t seem to be there.

“- Meanwhile the man who stopped us all from having to salute like a Nazi is celebrated by men doing Nazi salutes.”

A group called the Football Lads Alliance took part. It’s a British thing, going to a football game in order to get in a fight. Not everyone who likes the game does that, but for some people it’s the whole point. And it does seem to be linked to racism.

I’m not even going to try to explain it. I don’t think it’s anything an outsider is likely to understand..

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At a point where a group of far right demonstrators (let’s call them FRs) clashed with a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators (let’s call them BLMs), one FR was left by his friends and was curled on the ground, surrounded by the group of BLMs they’d been fighting with. Patrick Hutchinson, a personal trainer who’d come with some friends in order to de-escalate clashes, waded in, heaved the FR over his shoulder, and with his friends in formation around him, carried him out.

The photo–a black guy carrying a white FR demonstrator to safety–went viral.

“If the other three police officers who were standing around when George Floyd was murdered had thought about intervening like what we did, George Floyd would be alive today,” he said.

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Near where I live, in mostly white, very rural Cornwall, thirty people held a one-hour Black Lives Matter demonstration in the small market town of Camelford. We were masked and distanced and it took some of us most of the hour to work out that we already knew half of the people we were standing with.

I’d posted the event on our village Facebook page (having a village Facebook page is a tradition that dates back to the middle ages), and the response was a long argument about statues and whether responding to black lives matter by saying “all lives matter” is like saying responding to someone saying, “Save the Amazon,” by saying “all trees matter.”

The argument went on for over 200 comments.

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Further down west (as people say around here), in Porthleven, surfers paddled into the harbor in support of black lives matter.

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On a totally different note, in Italy, a group of drug dealers knew they were being watched by the police and wanted someplace safe to stash their stash until the cops got bored, so they did what any sensible, adult drug dealer would do: They hid $22,000 worth of cocaine in the forest. Where a pack of wild boars found it, tore open the packaging, and spread it all over the forest floor.

It’s not at all clear whether the boars inhaled.

The article I got this from called the boars a horde, which made me realize that I don’t know what you call a group of wild boars. I’ve (arbitrarily–it’s the privilege of the chair to be arbitrary) called them a pack, ruling horde out of order, along with mob, herd, and flock. I haven’t ruled out committee.

A committee of cocaine-fueled wild boars . . .

If you’re a fan of short story prompts, you’re welcome to use that as an opening line. In the story I won’t bother to write, they end up running the country.

It may or may not be fiction.

The U.K. star count 2020

If you live in the U.K., you can help the Countryside Charity take a survey of how dark the nighttime skies are. They’re asking people to go outside after 7 pm between February 21 and February 28, wait till their eyes adjust to the dark, and report how many stars they see inside the Orion constellation. You don’t need binoculars or telescopes or anything other than yourself and the skies and a clear night.

That last part–the clear night–is going to be hard. I can’t remember the last one we had.

It’s as useful to report from a city where you’d be lucky to see a single star as it is to report from the darks of Bodmin Moor. It’s all information. Follow the link above and you’ll find the instructions (there aren’t many) and a way to report your count.

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As long the weather’s come into the conversation, I might as well tell you that as soon as Britain’s hit by a storm big enough to earn itself a name, it will be Storm Ellen. Batten down the hatches.

Dark skies in England

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is asking people to help measure how dark England’s skies are. To participate, you look for the constellation Orion and see how many stars you can count inside it without using binoculars or a telescope. Only you have to do it sometime between this exact minute and February 23.

And if this exact minute happens to be noon? You wait till after 7 pm because night is when it gets dark.

Do I have to explain everything?

The best time to do this is the first week of February, when there’ll be less light from the moon. You also want to wait for a good clear night, otherwise the exercise is pointless. If you see ten or fewer stars (not counting the corner stars), you’re in a light-polluted area. Thirty or more is dark, dark, dark.

To find Orion, you read the article I linked to above, because there’s no point in me repeating it, then you take a look at the photo in this one, which gives you a better idea of what Orion looks like and where the corner stars are. Then you go back to the first site and report your findings.

The point of the exercise is to raise awareness of light pollution, which according the campaign interferes with sleep patterns in humans and messes with wildlife, and to get localities to modify their lighting as much as possible.

The point of me writing about this is that it’s good to know that someone cares, and that people can pitch in. Even though, I admit, it’s a long way from being the biggest problem we face.