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- A week in South Carolina: Abbeville
- The impact of Joint Enterprise
- Swine flu
- The language of mental health
- Visit space
Here's something blending together the past and the future - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have produced a series of posters promoting travel to the far-flung corners of the universe in the style of 'golden age of travel' adverts.
Casual use of phrases relating to mental health can have an unplanned consequences, warns Zsofia Demjen:
The problem is that mental health disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and bi-polar disorder are not simple and fleeting and everyday. They are complex illnesses that require treatment. But when the technical terms for them begin to mean something everyday, it becomes harder to express when something is really, seriously wrong. If everyone regularly claims to be depressed, then ‘depressed’ becomes normal. It potentially makes it more difficult for someone with real depression to be taken seriously, to ask for help. And it may even lead others – thinking the illness to be something fleeting and simple – to respond with ‘Just get over it’.
Viruses were originally classified into different groups according to similarities in their structure, mode of replication and disease symptoms. For example, the Orthomyxoviruses include viruses that cause different types of influenza, while Paramyxoviruses include the viruses that cause measles and mumps.
Such large groupings are often called a family of viruses. The families can be subdivided into smaller groups, such as influenza A, B and C. Even within a single such group of viruses there can be an enormous level of genetic diversity, and this is the basis of the different strains. As an example, two HIV particles from the same individual may be 4% different in their genome; compare this with the 1% difference between the genomes of humans and chimpanzees, which are different species.
Or, if you'd rather keep a cool head than constantly check to see if you've a fever, you might like to find solace in Engin Isin's plea to avoid the cycle of panic:
I think it is apt to use the term "neurosis" and to name our response "neurotic" because the cycle that starts with a bang almost always ends with a whimper. It seems that, after every cycle we have gone through, we realise that the responses we were led to believe to have been appropriate proved to be well beyond what was necessary. Is Al Qaeda really the threat that it was presented to be? Are migrants really the threat that they were represented to be? Is there really an economic collapse to the extent that has been suggested? In a short time it has already been demonstrated that the most recent cycle - swine flu - may have been an over-reaction. The headlines already declare that swine flu did not spread as fast as predicted. The BBC News reported tests showing that the swine flu virus in Mexico may be less virulent than first feared, and asked "Did Mexico over-react on swine flu? " It is as though it was only Mexico that over-reacted.
The Supreme Court has ruled today that, for the last three decades, people have been sent to prison due to a misunderstanding of the "joint enterprise" law. Writing in 2014, Mischa Wilmer heard from people whose lives had been wrecked by 'being in the wrong place' had been escalated into a murder conviction:
The main problem with joint enterprise, Dyson contends, is that that the accessory only has to foresee the risk of the second crime taking place - rather than desire it to happen or even believe it will happen – in order to be convicted of murder. He proposes amending the law so that a murder conviction requires proof that the accessory either believed the murder would happen, or intended it to.
“Historically our law was that secondary participation required you to know the essential elements of the principal’s crime. ‘Know’ was taken to mean know, intend or believe. Over time, how we defined how far the court thought a criminal venture was going to go shifted and we ended up deciding it was whatever the individual foresaw as possible,” he explains. “If you said that secondary participation always requires an intention or a belief that the principal will commit the crime, that would solve the problem.
This week, as we run up to the US Presidential primaries in South Carolina, we've been exploring towns in that state. Yesterday, we focused on birthplace of William Gibson, Conway. Today, we're heading north to Abbeville.
Abbeville is the seat of the county of the same name, which sits alongside the Savannah River as it forms the boundary between South Carolina and Georgia. County and town were both named after the town in France, reflecting the original European settlers in the town: Huguenots fleeing persecution for their religion. 212 people had escaped from France, making the jouney via Plymouth in Devon to arrive in Charleston in 1764. Public subscriptions were taken up to allow them to buy land in the area - this back in an era when asylum seekers and migrants weren't instantly vilified, of course. Originally they dubbed their settlement New Bourdeaux; the incoming French mingled and intermarried with their neighbours, in particular the Scottish settlers from neighbouring counties.
In 1782, John C Calhoun was born in Abbeville. He has left his marks all over history. Some of his achievements are memorable, such as being the first Vice President of the United States to have been born a US Citizen; some less so; he drove America into the disater that was the 1812 war with Britain, and is probably more responsible than anyone else for the kicking of of the American Civil War.
Abbeville was the birthplace of that conflict; a tract of land known today as Secession Hill. Here, on November 22nd, 1860, 3,000 people gathered to hear the first collection of "secession speeches", making explict South Georgia's intention to leave the Union. By coincidence. It also hosted the last act of the war, as Jefferson Davis, fleeing Confederate Union President, rested at the home of Armistead Burt on May 5th 1865. While there, he chaired the last cabinet of the Confederacy, which acknowledged the loss of the war.
More recently, Abbeville was the focus of another deadly conflict. In 2003, the State wanted to widen Highway 72 as it ran through Abbeville. Because work to improve the road had long been expected, the State had years before taken an easement on a strip of land along the existing route. The landowners were able to keep that land, but understood that at some point that strip might be taken to build the new road. Unfortunately, one family who had bought a property subject to this easement were either unaware of it, or else chose to ignore it. The Bixby family saw the move in terms of the government taking their land, and what started as a legal wrangle escalated into a fatal standoff. On December 8th, 2003, highway workers attempted to place markers along the construction route. The Bixbys threatened the workers. When Daniel Wilson, a police officer, called at the Bixby house to investigate, he was shot in the chest. The Bixbys then "arrested" Wilson, handcuffing him and leaving him to die slowly as they entered into a siege situation. A second officer, Donnie Ouzts, was shot when he went to investigate. The Bixbys kept up a constant barrage of gunfire to hold off up to 200 law enforecement officers who surrounded the house. A robot sent in to the house ruptured a gas line, adding a fire to the mix. Eventually, the Bixbys surrendered; Steven Bixby was sentended to death for his part in the deaths.
The house stood empty for a decade until, in a grim twist, failure to pay property taxes saw the county seize the parts of the land that hadn't been part of the original easement.
The Abbeville Standoff wouldn't be the last time that armed citizens challenged the actions of government in the US.