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April 24, 2014

This Week In The Civil War: Fighting in Arkansas

This Week in the Civil War - This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.

Union troops who had been backing a failed federal Army and Navy incursion up the Red River into northern Louisiana found themselves bogged down in fighting in neighboring Arkansas this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The troops under the command of Union Maj. Gen. Fred Steel were crossing the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry in Arkansas when Confederate forces arrived and began to attack on April 30, 1864.

Maj. General Fred Steel

The Union fighters fended off several attacks by the rebels and managed to cross the river with their supply wagons. Ultimately the Union force would regroup at its base in Little Rock, Arkansas, successfully in slipping away from the Confederate force bent on destroying the Union force.

Most Americans Still Question The Big Bang Theory

By SETH BORENSTEIN and JENNIFER AGIESTA

Associated Press

Washington (AP) While scientists believe the universe began with a Big Bang, most Americans put a big question mark on the concept, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.

Yet when it comes to smoking causing cancer or that a genetic code determines who we are, the doubts disappear.

When considering concepts scientists consider truths, Americans have more skepticism than confidence in those that are farther away from our bodies in scope and time: global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and especially the Big Bang from 13.8 billion years ago.

Rather than quizzing scientific knowledge, the survey asked people to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine.

On some, there’s broad acceptance. Just 4 percent doubt that smoking causes cancer, 6 percent question whether mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain and 8 percent are skeptical there’s a genetic code inside our cells. More—15percent—have doubts about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines.

About 4 in 10 say they are not too confident or outright disbelieve that the earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection, though most were at least somewhat confident in each of those concepts. But a narrow majority—51 percent —uestions the Big Bang theory.

Those results depress and upset some of America’s top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts.

``Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts,’’ said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.

The poll highlights ``the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,’’ said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

And scientists know they’ve got the shakiest leg in the triangle.

To the public ``most often values and beliefs trump science’’ when they conflict, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Political and religious values were closely tied to views on science in the poll, with Democrats more apt than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change.

Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.

``When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can’t argue against faith,’’ said 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemistry professor Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University. ``It makes sense now that science would have made no headway because faith is untestable.’’

But evolution, the age of the Earth and the Big Bang are all compatible with God, except to Bible literalists, said Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine.

Beyond religious belief, views on science may be tied to what we see with our own eyes. The closer an issue is to ourselves and the less complicated, the easier it is for people to believe, said John Staudenmaier, a Jesuit priest and historian of technology at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Marsha Brooks, a 59-year-old nanny who lives in Washington, D.C., said she’s certain smoking causes cancer because she saw her mother, aunts and uncles, all smokers, die of cancer. But when it comes to the universe beginning with a Big Bang or the Earth being about 4.5 billion years old, she has doubts. She explained: ``It could be a lack of knowledge. It seems so far’’ away.

Jorge Delarosa, a 39-year-old architect from Bridgewater, N.J., pointed to a warm 2012 without a winter and said, ``I feel the change. There must be a reason.’’ But when it came to Earth’s beginnings 4.5 billion years ago, he has doubts simply because ``I wasn’t there.’’

Experience and faith aren’t the only things affecting people’s views on science. Duke University’s Lefkowitz sees ``the force of concerted campaigns to discredit scientific fact’’ as a more striking factor, citing significant interest groups, political, business and religious, campaigning against scientific truths on vaccines, climate change and evolution.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

On Twitter, follow AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein at http://twitter.com/borenbears and AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta at http://www.twitter.com/JennAgiesta.

‘What Would Abbie Think?’ Radical’s Presence Felt Today

By BEN FINLEY

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Solebury, PA (AP) The gray Toyota Corolla that Abbie Hoffman drove in Mexico during his fugitive years still sits in upper Bucks County, parked on the old farm where he lived and took his own life 25 years ago.

``I’ve been wondering what to do with it,’’ Michael Waldron, Hoffman’s former landlord and friend, said recently. ``But I’m not sure who would take it.’’

They still remember Hoffman at the Apple Jack bar in Point Pleasant, where he once shot pool and flirted with women.

``He was pretty rowdy,’’ said a 64-year-old regular, who didn’t want to give his name. ``He was loud. He was Abbie.’’

And if the iconoclastic 1960s radical, branded as both a counterculture hero and a publicity-seeking clown, left a legacy in Bucks, perhaps it’s undeveloped land. Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said Hoffman’s help fighting a 1980s project to pump water from the river sparked a rebirth of local environmental activism.

Hoffman with Jane Fonda in 1970

On April 12, 1989, the 52-year-old Hoffman was found dead in his Solebury apartment, a converted turkey coop. His suicide was an anticlimactic end for one of America’s most recognizable provocateurs, a man who helped ``levitate’’ the Pentagon, dump cash onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and nominate a pig for president in 1968.

His death drew national headlines. But his name carries far less currency today, particularly among Americans born after the baby boom. And yet mention of his name still stirs debate over his legacy in the nation and in Bucks County, where he spent his final years.

Hoffman is most remembered as one of the Chicago Seven, a group accused of inciting riots outside the 1968 Democratic Convention. He had an FBI file thicker than all of his books, including ``Steal This Book,’’ a best-selling manifesto on how to live free.

``So much of the left was overly serious, and Abbie’s gift was his humor and theater and the fact that he was educating people,’’ said Jonah Raskin, a Hoffman friend and author of ``For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman.’’

But Fred Turner, an associate professor of communication at Stanford University, wonders if Hoffman’s style ``haunts us now.’’

Turner credits Hoffman for satirical influence on comedians such as Jon Stewart and Dave Chappelle. But he said people ``tend to believe that expressing one’s opinion in a public place is expressing politics. And that is not in any way expressing politics.’’

After an arrest for dealing cocaine in the early 1970s, Hoffman had plastic surgery and went underground for nearly seven years. He resurfaced in 1980 and served three months in jail, before settling outside New Hope.

``I understood why Abbie went to Bucks County—because you couldn’t find it,’’ his brother, Jack Hoffman, said in a phone interview from Massachusetts, where Hoffman grew up before earning degrees from Brandeis University and the University of California at Berkeley.

In 1982, Hoffman was hired by the group Del-AWARE Unlimited Inc. to help fight the proposed pump on the river, which would feed water to the Limerick nuclear power plant in Montgomery County.

Hoffman on the cover of National Lampoon, 1979

Carluccio, who was the group’s director, said Hoffman attracted much-needed attention to the cause and was instrumental in engaging the larger community.

But Albert Cepparulo, a lawyer who represented pump protesters, said Hoffman ``wanted to perform.’’

He helped lead blockades of the construction site and protests at the courthouse, where he once signed his name on the wall. After an arrest, Hoffman asked Cepparulo, now a Bucks County judge, to represent him.

The writer George Plimpton sent a check to pay Hoffman’s legal bills, but Cepparulo said Hoffman was just a sideshow.

``There were so many volunteers that spent years fighting this cause,’’ he said. ``And I remember them much more than I do Abbie Hoffman.’’

The project eventually moved forward despite the opposition; the water started flowing in the summer of 1989.

Hoffman was still lecturing at colleges and writing in the months before he died.

``He had a lot of energy and lots of ideas,’’ said Cheryl Chen, who worked as one of Hoffman’s assistants while she was in high school.

Chen remembers getting caught driving without a license with a friend and calling Hoffman from the police station because she couldn’t reach her parents.

``He clearly tried to dress respectfully,’’ she said with a laugh. ``He drove us home and gave us a lecture about driving without insurance or a license. I remember being surprised by getting that kind of lecture from him.’’

Waldron, his former landlord, said people visited from all over the world, including the poet Allen Ginsberg. Hoffman once rehearsed his lines as a strike organizer in the Oliver Stone movie ``Born on the Fourth of July’’ to llamas standing outside his window. One spat on him.

Hoffman, however, had been growing increasingly depressed. He suffered from bipolar disorder and was concerned about growing old.

The last time Jack Hoffman talked to his brother, he told him their mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Later that night, Abbie Hoffman ingested a large amount of the sedative phenobarbital while drinking glasses of Glenlivet scotch.

Despite disbelief among some that Hoffman killed himself—he didn’t leave a note—a coroner ruled the death a suicide. The local police department quickly wrapped up its investigation.

``We thought maybe the feds might want to come in and take a look at the computer that was there,’’ said Dan Boyle, a former Solebury police officer who is now a private investigator. ``That never happened.’’

Chen, who now lectures on philosophy at Harvard, said she was in college during the first Iraq War and thought, ``What would Abbie be doing in response to this?’’

``In the past 15 years, so many crazy things have happened,’’ she added. ``I sometimes think, `What would he be making of all this?’’’

 

 

 


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