The Weekly Wrap. The most important, impactful and interesting news stories, ideas, cultural trends or just plain-old fun and oddball items I found this week.
(ICYMI: Yesterday’s post, “Back to the blog and recommitting to self”)
1. Mind Blow: No one has legal authority over the Union Jack?
I’m an American. Born here. Bred here. Will probably die here. And, in all those years, I’m not sure I’ll ever come across a time where anyone doubts exactly who has legal authority over some aspect of government. The answer’s usually simple: Congress, the president, the judicial branch, or some local or state elected body or agency. So, I was completely caught off guard this week when I ran across a BBC Magazine article on the Union Jack and its future after a possible win for Scottish independence campaigners (the vote will be held Sept. 18).
It seems there’s no unanimous agreement or understanding on who or what has legal authority over the United Kingdom’s flag. Parliament? Crown? Not clear.
Leaders in Britain are pointing fingers. Buckingham says it belongs to a cultural department. That department says the authority belongs to the Cabinet Office. That office says, in the words of the BBC, “that since the issue hasn’t been raised for hundreds of years, no guidance is currently in place.”
Even the one person you think might know the answer doesn’t.
“There is no official legal protocol on flags, to the extent that you can’t even say that the union jack is the flag of the United Kingdom,” Andrew Rosindell, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Flags and Heraldry, told BBC.
And, in the coolest-ever notion of all, one more group chimes in: the College of Arms, reports the BBC, “says that the flag is determined by the crown, and was confirmed by an order of the Privy Council in 1800.”
Imagine that — one area where the queen might actually have real, sovereign and executive power.
2. Really? Teen faces two years in jail
This has to be the oddest story I’ve seen in quite a long time. It was populating through my social media networks early in the week and picked up steam in the mainstream as the week flew by.
A 14-year-old Pennsylvania teenager is facing up to two years in juvenile jail for a not-so-well thought-out moment of adolescent awesomeness. His crime? Simulating oral sex with a statue of Jesus. In Pennsylvania, it’s called “Desecration of a Venerated Object,” defined as “Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise, physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.”
I asked my friends and followers for their reactions. All were nearly unanimous: “Poor taste,” “stupid,” “silly,” but no crime.
And, the award for wit and satire, from C.O.: “Nope, not a criminal case. Granted, it’s a statue of Jerry Sandusky, which is still a ‘venerated’ object in the Commonwealth of Penisylvania. But the action depicted in the photo is entirely realistic. There’s no defacing, pollution, damage, or physical mistreatment going on here.”
Curious if other states have weird, likely unconstitutional laws? Yes, plenty. Here’s 10 bizarre church laws, including prohibitions against fake mustaches and whispering in churches.
3. Obama and the Oval
If you’re a news and politics geek like me, you watched President Barack Obama’s primetime speech to the nation on Wednesday.
Plenty to debate on policy, both foreign and domestic. But, really, for the first time I noticed something I’d never noticed before (I am way late to the game, by the way): The Big O is not a fan of the Oval Office.
“Let’s be clear… ISIL is not ‘Islamic’…And ISIL is certainly not a state” pic.twitter.com/fBzUEDDJho
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 11, 2014
Four presidents in a row now have announced air strikes. (Watch all those addresses here.) Each, with the exception of Obama, made the announcement in the Oval Office. The Washington Post and Bloomberg News explain Obama’s reluctance to use the presidential office and instead his opting for spaces like the East Room.
Reid Cherlin, a former Obama assistant press secretary tells The Washington Post, “I know that these rooms are supposed to convey presidential authority, and they do — but they also, I think, convey isolation in a way that is probably not that helpful for a message like this.”
4. CMPD takes on excessive force
National conversations on excessive police force, racial profiling and more has been sparked again following the death of teenager Michael Brown and the resulting turmoil in Ferguson, Mo. It’s also created a “time of anxiety,” according to activists. In Charlotte, the recent arrest of a black, LGBT leader prompted calls for greater police accountability and officials with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) said they have nothing to hide.
Still, the two sides have come away with two very different understandings of the event. I explore a bit of that in my latest editorial at the day job.
Though influenced by the events in Ferguson, the context locally also includes September 2013 shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man who had just emerged from a car accident and had sought assistance at a nearby home.
CMPD handled that incident properly. They immediately arrested and charged the officer who shot Ferrell and he was indicted on voluntary manslaughter.
The Charlotte Observer also has a follow-up on the case this weekend. In it, the Rev. Dr. Dwayne Walker, pastor of Little Rock AME Zion Church, praises CMPD for their response to the Ferrell shooting and said CMPD has sought a “a culture of understanding” with the community.
I’ve been impressed with CMPD’s willingness to engage in these tough conversations, hold their officers and other officials accountable (as recently as this week) and engage directly with the community.