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I try to stick one story at the start of these things, but sometimes you have to acknowledge two.

Michael Wines looks at police, race and the lack of actual data.

If anything good has come out of this month’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., it is that the death of the black teenager shined a spotlight on the plague of shootings of black men by white police officers. And maybe now, the nation will begin to address the racism behind it. ... few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.

Such arguments suggest that the use of deadly force by police officers unfairly targets blacks. All that is needed are the numbers to prove it. ...

Researchers have sought reliable data on shootings by police officers for years, and Congress even ordered the Justice Department to provide it, albeit somewhat vaguely, in 1994. But two decades later, there remains no comprehensive survey of police homicides. The even greater number of police shootings that do not kill, but leave suspects injured, sometimes gravely, is another statistical mystery.

The government's inaction in collecting data on police activity, is exactly equivalent to the NRA's action in blocking the collection of information about gun violence. Both are very uncomfortable about what the numbers would say.

Leonard Pitts on true American exceptionalism

Sometimes you read a sentence and you think to yourself: only here, only us. Here’s one such sentence.

“A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her.”

That’s from a New York Times account of the death of 39-year-old Charles Vacca, who worked for the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. He died Monday when his preteen student lost control of the Uzi. Apparently, the gun was in “repeat fire” mode, the recoil lifted the muzzle, the little girl couldn’t master it and Vacca was struck in the head. ...

What kind of shooting range allows a prepubescent girl to fire an Uzi? What kind of instructor does not guard against recoil when a child is handling such a powerful weapon? What kind of parents think it’s a good idea to put a submachine gun in their 9-year-old’s hands? And what kind of idiot country does not prohibit such things by law?

It is the last question that should most concern us. There’s not much you can do about individual lack of judgment. Some people will always be idiots. Some companies will always be idiots. But a country and its laws should be an expression of a people’s collective wisdom. So for a country to be idiotic says something sweeping about national character.

Ummm... Amen?

Come in, let's see what else is up...

The New York Times mourns the lack of a real national service program.

AmeriCorps turns 20 on Sept. 12, and as the nation’s main public service program in those two decades, it has benefited numerous communities and given 900,000 Americans a chance to help people.

Unfortunately, that milestone is also a reminder of Washington’s broken promise to expand substantially the number of full- and part-time AmeriCorps members, who receive minimal living expenses and a modest education stipend — now $5,645 a year for full-time service. Those in the program, which has a budget of roughly $665 million a year, do invaluable work, like tutoring and mentoring at-risk students, cleaning up dilapidated public parks and responding to floods, hurricanes and other disasters and emergencies.

During his first run for the White House, President Obama spoke many times about his commitment to expanding AmeriCorps and other national service programs. “This will be a cause of my presidency,” he pledged. In 2009, amid much fanfare, he signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, named for the senator who was its foremost champion. The law was passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and it called for increasing AmeriCorps positions in stages to 250,000 by 2017. Yet in the five years since, the authorized ramp-up has not occurred.

The failure to begin an actual replacement for CCC or WPA is at the top of my disappointments list for the last seven years.  That we haven't even used the minor expansion in national service programs that were authorized is just baffling.

Nicholas Kristoff demonstrates racism by the numbers

Many white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: “All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money.”

Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism. ...

• The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household ...

• The black-white income gap is roughly 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967.

• A black boy born today in the United States has a life expectancy five years shorter than that of a white boy.

Those are just the start of a sad list, but the idea that white America feels that racism against whites is a problem... that could be the saddest value of all.

Anne Applebaum says we should all buckle down for dark times in Europe.

... I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

I realize that this question sounds hysterical, and foolishly apocalyptic, to U.S. or Western European readers. But hear me out, if only because this is a conversation many people in the eastern half of Europe are having right now. In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow. Some include Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, cities that are still hundreds of miles away from the fighting. Some place Novorossiya along the coast, so that it connects Russia to Crimea and eventually to Transnistria, the Russian-occupied province of Moldova. Even if it starts out as an unrecognized rump state — Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “states” that Russia carved out of Georgia, are the models here — Novorossiya can grow larger over time. ...

A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes — perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city — to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.

Yeah, Bush's pal and Fox News favorite Putin really does seem that crazy.

Michael Barnes, a former representative, reminds us that conservative opinion about suing the president has changed.

Before leaving for its August recess, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to sue President Obama over his failure to fully implement a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Some Democrats have characterized this legal action as unprecedented, frivolous and even outrageous. But it brings back a lot of memories for me, some of which may be uncomfortable for my fellow Democrats and some of which ought to give pause to conservative Republicans rushing to support the lawsuit.

In the 1980s, the tables were turned. I was one of the authors of legislation requiring President Ronald Reagan to certify that the government of El Salvador was improving its dismal human rights record if he wanted to continue giving it military aid. The White House didn’t like the law, but for a couple of years the president certified the uncertifiable, and the aid flowed. Finally, in 1984, perhaps embarrassed by the obvious falsehood of its certifications, the White House searched for a way to avoid having to go through this charade again.

The strategy was not to use a traditional veto, which at a minimum would have resulted in unpleasant media coverage and might have been overridden. Instead, Reagan decided to “pocket-veto” the bill renewing the certification process. ...

I sent a letter to each of my House colleagues, and 32 of them joined in the legal action, including two Republicans. We filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to have the law put on the books and implemented. In a stark indication of how different the politics of today are from those of 30 years ago, the bipartisan leadership of the House — Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill (D-Mass.), Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.), Majority Whip Thomas Foley (D-Wash.), Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.) and Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — joined the suit in support of my position.

Fascinating bit of history. Read this one.

Alexandra Petri gives some ideas to go with that anti-rape nail polish.

•Password-Protected Chastity Spanx
Cinch that waist! And make certain nothing gets past.

•Victoria’s Other Secret: The Bra Has a Breathalyzer In It
Clasp won’t unclasp until the wearer has blown into it and passed. Allay all his concerns — and look great doing it!

•Tank Top
This top is actually a tank, complete with machine gun turret. Check out THESE guns! Sexy! But formidable.

•Zipless Fox Jeans (For Him)
These pants won’t unzip unless the other party provides signed proof of enthusiastic consent.
This might inconvenience men, and also, they seem to put responsibility on the person actually acting.

The items might seem trivial, but the point isn't.
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