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The projection of SWAT power here in Tampa is overwhelming. Local estimates put the security collective at well over 1,000 people, meaning there is one officer for every two delegates in the hall. I’ve spotted members of the Secret Service, the National Guard, the Florida state police, the Tampa police, local sheriffs’ offices, and neighboring-county details. Downtown Tampa was in near-lockdown yesterday morning when Kevin and I tried to claim our credentials. We abandoned our cab ten or fifteen blocks away and walked through a major urban downtown almost entirely emptied out of civilians and populated almost exclusively in their stead by riot police in full battle gear—mace, M9s or Sigs, M16s, thigh packs, radio packs, video cameras. Early reports had said there were to be some 15,000 protesters; perhaps they were detained by the hurricane.
Instead, yesterday was a day of heightened tedium. At one point Kevin and I spotted nine or ten anarchist kids marching down the street shouting obscenities about Romney and Obama. The SWAT teams moved in, many shooting video on their cameras. The anarchists live-streamed the commandos filming them. I took pictures of everyone videotaping everyone else. I’m sorry M. C. Escher wasn’t around to capture all the ouroboric fun.
Prior to the convention, the Tampa police sat down with the ACLU and produced a handy book filled with smart tips for eager anarchists who want “to stay safe”:
After milling around for a while, the kids wandered over to a coffee shop where the SWAT team was kicking back, enjoying their venti decaf Americanos and skinny caramel lattés. They offered the protesters some Gatorade, which the kids gratefully accepted, while the rest of us walked off, vaguely disappointed.
More from Jack Hitt:
Political Asylum — November 6, 2012, 2:01 pm
Obama’s data-driven approach may decide today’s race—and determine the future of the G.O.P.
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Percentage of Americans who say they would not enjoy spending time with their own clone:
Astronomers recorded the most powerful pulse of radiation ever observed; the radiation was emitted from a pulsar 12,000 light-years from Earth and was “capable of totally vaporising and ionising all known materials, shredding them into hot plasma.”
Alberta dentist Michael Zuk, the owner of a molar that belonged to John Lennon, revealed that he hoped to clone a new Lennon and raise him as a son. “Hopefully keep him away from drugs,” said Zuk, “but, you know, guitar lessons wouldn’t hurt.”
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Science’s crisis of faith