Monday Reads

sun

Good Morning!

I’ve found a few things to keep you interested this morning.  Some are depressing as usual and some are intriguing.   The Sun is going to reverse polarity soon.  This evidently happens every 11 years and causes some interesting space weather.

The sun switches its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every eleven years through an internal mechanism about which little is understood.

The swap could however cause intergalactic weather fronts such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts.

Nasa said in August that the change would happen in three to four months time, but it is impossible to give a more specific date. Scientist won’t know for around another three weeks whether the flip is complete.

The impact of the transfer will be widespread as the sun’s magnetic field exerts influence well beyond Pluto, past Nasa’s Voyager probes positioned near the edge of interstellar space.

The event will be watched closely by researchers at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, which monitors the sun’s magnetic field on a daily basis.

Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory, said the polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity.

Eventually, the magnetic field reduces to zero, before rebounding with the opposite polarity. “It’s kind of like a tide coming in or going out,” Hoeksema said. “Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.”

One of the most noticeable effect on Earth will be a boost in the occurrence, range and visibility of auroras – the Northern Lights. “It’s not a catastrophic event, it’s a large scale event that has some real implications, but its not something we need to worry about,” added Hoeksema.

rover-flagOne more space story.  The Chinese Flag is now on the moon.  They landed a rover there last weekend.

Shanghaist reports China has photographed its flag on the moon for the first time in history.

China landed a rover on the moon last weekend, becoming the third country after the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to do so. No vehicle has touched the moon since 1976. China launched its first lunar orbiter in 2007.

 I’ve been really upset by the news coming out of Syria recently even though our press has done a horrible job covering the country’s 

20131214_map504squalid conditions resulting from of all the violence  It’s been a harsh winter and the people are starving.  There are also human rights violations even though the chemical weapons usage has ceased. Here is some information on a Syrian activists as well as foreign journalists who have been imprisoned by the brutal regiem and others.

THE Syrian regime has long enjoyed locking up activists. Mazen Darwish, who since 2004 has run the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression, has been in jail since February last year. Others have spent years behind bars. Sadly, some of the opponents to Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, have started to do the same. In the latest episode, on December 10th Razan Zeitouneh (pictured above), a lawyer who won several prizes last year for her dedication to peaceful activism, was taken along with three colleagues from their office in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

Ms Zeitouneh and her colleagues ran the Violations Documentation Centre, a local organisation that since the start of Syria’s uprising-turned-war has tracked the death toll of both the opposition and regime fighters. She has been in hiding since 2011. She was taken along with her husband Wael Hamada and Sameera Khalil, the wife of Yassin Haj Saleh, a famed Syrian writer who left the country just two months ago as civil society activists and free speakers became targeted as much by extremist groups as the regime. He wrote movingly about his experience.

The suspected culprit in the latest abduction is the Army of Islam, a Damascus-based umbrella group believed to receive funds from Saudi Arabia. Most of the kidnappings are carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda linked group which aims to create a borderless caliphate and considers both non-Muslims and liberal Muslims as heretics. On the same day as Ms Zeitouneh was kidnapped, El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, announced that its Middle East reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been held by ISIS since September 18th. Another 30 or so foreigners, a mixture of journalists and aid workers, are also being held, including Italian priest Paolo Dall’Oglio who spent three decades in Syria.

I would like you all to know that there is a war on Festivus and Fox News is the aggressor.

A fake holiday popularized by Seinfeld has become the symbol of secular pushback against religious dominion over American public life. Or something like that.

The Wisconsin and Florida state capitols currently have Festivus poles on display. To the uninitiated, the Festivus pole is a key component in the celebration of Festivus, a bizarre and agonizing December 23 holiday made famous by “The Strike,” a 1997 episode of the beloved NBC sitcom Seinfeld. Since the episode aired, the holiday has taken on a life of its own. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has thrown Festivus fundraisers, for example. And at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday, self-proclaimed “militant atheist” activist Chaz Stevens erected a 6-foot Festivus pole made out of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the state house rotunda in protest of the privately funded nativity scene at the capitol.

Harry Mihet, of the “religious liberty” law firm Liberty Counsel, called Stevens’ views “extreme” and his display offensive. “Is this how PC we’ve gotten in our society, really?” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said on Tuesday. “I am so outraged by this. Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for nativity scenes and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, kids, look. There’s Baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans!”

festivus pole Oh Noes!!!  Plastic Baby Jesus is hidden behind a Festivus pole!   And a public airing of the Grievances!  Right in front of that Plastic Nativity Scene!!!

“This whole thing is just a serious feat of … ridiculousness,” says Chaz Stevens, who marched into the Capitol building on Wednesday morning clutching a case of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a 6-foot pole made of PVC pipe. It’s a nod to the unadorned aluminum pole that is part of the secular Festivus holiday invented by George Costanza’s dad on Seinfeld.

The celebration also includes an “airing of grievances” during the family meal, in which each person describes disappointments experienced over the course of the year.

Stevens says when he heard about the Capitol Nativity scene, it was just too much. So he applied to the state to install his own display: a pole covered in beer cans.

“This is about separation of church and state,” Stevens says. “The government shouldn’t be in this business of allowing the mixture of church and state.”

The displays are allowed inside Florida’s Capitol building because the state has designated the rotunda as “a public forum.” Howard Simon of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the state had no choice.

“They’re not going to be allowed to discriminate. It’s going to be a public forum for all forms of speech and expression and displays,” Simon says.

Professional Public Asshole, Paul Ryan, has decided that the debt ceiling will be the next hostage target.  I guess he wasn’t satisfied with the blood of the unemployed.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) signaled that Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling next year without some sort of concessions from Democrats, saying lawmakers were still crafting their strategy.

“We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit,” Mr. Ryan said on Fox News Sunday. “We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”

The U.S. government spends more money than it brings in through taxes, which means the Treasury Department has to borrow money by issuing debt. The government can only borrow money up to a certain level -called the debt ceiling – which is set by Congress. In October, lawmakers agreed to “suspend” the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. The White House has said it will no longer negotiate with Republicans on conditions for raising the debt limit, but many Republicans have said they will only vote to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for budget changes like spending cuts.

The Republican party continues to be in complete denial about all things related to Real GDP and the debt and deficit in real terms.  Size is relative to both real GDP and to whatever has happened in inflation over the years.  You can’t arbitrarily look at a number without understanding the changes in prices and the overall size of an economy and its taxable assets.  Is it just me or is Paul Ryan one of the least serious people on the hill?

Oh, wait.  There’s also Darrell Issa.  One of the most fun things I’ve seen recently is that the HHS Department has refused to turn information over to Issa because they believe he will violate the privacy of millions of Americans.

Rep. Darrell Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over documents on healthcare.gov security testing. HHS says Issa has already seen the documents he is seeking.

Politico: HHS To Darrell Issa: We Don’t Trust You
The Health and Human Services Department told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that it won’t turn over documents related to the security of the Healthcare.gov website because it can’t trust him to keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system. Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over unredacted copies of security-testing documents by noon Friday. … Already, Issa has been given access to the documents he seeks “in camera” — meaning committee staff were able to review them in a room but not keep them — but he is seeking physical copies (Allen, 12/12).

Roll Call: HHS To Issa: You Can’t Be Trusted With Obamacare Documents
The HHS assistant secretary for legislation, Jim R. Esquea, signaled that HHS was blocking MITRE from turning over the documents, which have been subpoenaed, over concerns that Issa would — as he has done in the past — leak the documents to the public, potentially giving hackers a road map to the “potential vulnerabilities in the cyber defenses” (Fuller, 12/12).

Issa is having a hissy fit.

So, that’s my little bit of this and that this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


55 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. AMJam had some pictures of Syria that were very disturbing: Syrian government bombs rebels in Aleppo, killing dozens | Al Jazeera America

    And there is this anti Bush piece over at NYpost: Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup | New York Post

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The tale of the fake signer at the Mandela funeral gets weirder and weirder. He “allegedly burned two men to death.”

    The fake sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last week was among a group of people accused of assaulting two men found with a stolen television and burning them to death, according to his friends. The interpreter, who sparked outrage when it was revealed that he was using fake sign language during the event, joined others in allegedly setting fire to tires and placing them around the two men’s necks, one of the interpreter’s cousins and three of his friends told the Associated Press.

    Thamsanqa Jantijie was never tried for the 2003 killings because authorities determined he was not mentally fit to stand trial, the sources, quoted anonymously, told the AP. Their account of the murders matched a description of the crime Jantijie himself gave during an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper of Johannesburg. Jantijie was institutionalized for over than a year in lieu of standing trial.

  3. bostonboomer says:
  4. mablue2 says:

    Waoweee!!!

    Megyn Kelly and her White Santa and White Jesus have gone international.

    Here ist Der Spiegel (There is actually nothing equivalent in the US from a qualitlity POV):

    Rassismus-Kritik an US-Moderatorin: Weiße Weihnachten

  5. RalphB says:

    As Pierce says of Ryan,,,

    the largely mythical balloon animal, Paul Ryan, Man Of Intellect And Integrity. (If there were a Macy’s Parade for hugely inflated fakes, they’d need 200 people to keep this baby from sailing off over Central Park.)

  6. NW Luna says:

    They first began looking into this health risk over 40 years ago. Finally the FDA gets close to action:

    The federal government said Monday it hasno evidence that antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs, and it is reviewing research suggesting they may pose health risks.

    Regulators at the Food and Drug Administration said they are revisiting the safety of chemicals such as triclosan in light of recent studies suggesting the substances can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

    The government’s preliminary ruling lends new support to outside researchers who have long argued that the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health. …. The FDA ruling does not apply to hand sanitizers, most of which use alcohol rather than antibacterial chemicals. ….

    Most of the research surrounding triclosan’s safety involves laboratory animals, including studies in rats that showed changes in testosterone, estrogen and thyroid hormones. Some scientists worry that such changes in humans could raise the risk of infertility, early puberty and even cancer.

    In March 2010, the European Union banned the chemical from all products that come into contact with food, such as containers and silverware.

    • Fannie says:

      Hand sanitziers and wipes are ok?………….is it body cleansing vs. house cleansing? Since we had mrsa (methicillian resistant staphylococcus aureus) I use medical wipes for everything in my house, and in my car to wipe down everything. It’s been a preventive measure for couple years now.

      I pretty much use bar soap, but do have the anti bacterial soap pumps in the bathrooms?
      I also purchased little bottles of hand sanitizers for my grandkids to use in their backpacks.

      Wow, I guess the chemicals are in thousands of products.

  7. dakinikat says:

    This article was being tweeted by most of the black feminists contacts I have yesterday.. I didn’t put it up top, but thought some of you might want to read it.

    http://realcoloredgirls.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/the-problem-with-beyhive-bottom-bitch-feminism/

    Admittedly, bottom bitch is an unfortunate metaphor to use for framing conversations about Beyonce, but when you’re married to “Big Pimp’n” and his cameo on your new self-titled album, coined a “feminist masterpiece,” is all about how he gon’

    Catch a charge, I might, beat the box up like Mike…

    I’m like Ike Turner

    Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake Annie Mae

    Said, eat the cake, Annie Mae

    you leave us no choice. When elements of the feminist community rise up to applaud your simplistic, pro-capitalist, structurally violent sampling of feminism, the metaphor becomes even more relevant. Moreover, we’re concerned that the capitalist ethics of mainstream hip hop has seduced feminist allies into flirting with bottom bitch feminism in their silencing of those who would critique Bey and the systemic violence she represents.

    To this we ask: Is a feminism sponsored by the corporate music industrial complex as big as we can dream? Is the end game a feminism in which the glass ceiling for black women’s representation only reaches as high as our booties? Can’t we just love Bey as an amazing corporate artist without selling out the hard won accomplishments of our black feminist and womanist foremothers? Can we not love her for the gorgeous and fierce mega pop star she is without appropriating her for some liberal, power feminist agenda?

    • Fannie says:

      Women have allowed groups of people, the media, etc, to fracture us………….they like it when we are chopped up in pieces………..that’s how they want us to be so they can maintain power……

      Hooie, it’s all about defining your self, and hopefully it’s healthy, so that the younger girls can get out the trap, the disrespect, cause things are far worst than we think for them.

    • NW Luna says:

      I’m certainly not Beyonce’s target market, and I have trouble considering pop stars as anything except what not to listen to.

  8. dakinikat says:

    Higher education is so fucked up in my state right now, it’s hard to even say what’s going on …

    http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/12/loyola_employees_camp_out_to_t.html

    Loyolla is so in debt the are asking employees to voluntarily severe their employment.

    • RalphB says:

      If they’re trying to clear their debt with staff reductions, it sounds like they have some very well paid non-productive tenured people. Probably not so much at Loyola, but “star” faculty is getting to be a huge expense for some universities.

    • NW Luna says:

      If it’s anything like the university I’m most familiar with, they’ve added several layers of unnecessary admin over the last decade, while reducing the number of persons who actually do the work.

  9. dakinikat says:

    http://herndondavis.blogspot.com/2013/12/how-politics-racism-and-facebook-ended.html

    This Christmas I will not be speaking to my friend of 16 years. Why??? Well after years of reading his Facebook posts I slowly and painfully discovered that my white friend was a racist. Initially I tried to ignore it but as an African American man I could no longer stomach his increasingly toxic, race fueled comments that were initially veiled as just boisterous, conservative rhetoric. After debating him online for years over politics, race and social topics I finally had an epiphany. I could no longer excuse “Adam” by brushing him off as being a hyper-conservative republican. His truth was undeniable.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Wow! How hurtful.

    • Yup, totally understand…only not to the extent that Davis felt personally.

      Iowa Republican’s 2-year investigation finds no statistically significant evidence of voter fraud | The Raw Story

      Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) has spent 18 months and almost $150,000 fulfilling his promise to make “ballot security” a top priority in Iowa.

      To date, his investigation has yielded 5 guilty pleas and 5 dismissals.

      Schultz is one of many Republicans who rode into office promising to curtail the non-existent plague of fraudulent voting.

      His critics claim that all he’s proven is that what little fraud exists is statistically insignificant, but he told The Des Moines Register that “[b]efore, the narrative was that there’s no such thing as voter fraud. That’s obviously changed. Iowans expect us to do something when we know there’s a problem.”

      Schultz has claimed that there is “a lot” of voter fraud in Iowa, and that his investigative team was sorting through a “mountain” of evidence of it. The five guilty pleas that resulted from the investigation do not constitute evidence of a systemic effort to violate Iowans’ “sacred” voting privilege.

      My friend out in the cornfields…she is this SOS administrative assistant. I’ve had to see her fb post about all the fraud, and some of her rants on things that make my skin crawl. (Upsetting to see how she can say such cruel christian right wing nut, fucked up Glenn Beck crazy ass things.)

  10. dakinikat says:

    oy

    “Fargo man arrested for clearing snow with flamethrower.” http://fmobserver.com/fargo-man-arrested-for-clearing-snow-with-flamethrower/

  11. bostonboomer says:

    3 buildings cleared in Harvard bomb threat

    About an hour later, the university announced that Sever Hall, another lecture hall, had also been reopened, but the Science Center remained closed.

    Thayer, Emerson, and Sever are all located inside the ancient Harvard Yard section of the campus. The Science Center stands just outside the Yard.

    Apparently, Homeland Security was all over Harvard Square, and President Obama was informed.

    If a bomb ever went off down in Harvard Yard, it could kill a lot of people. The threat happened during final exams. Maybe an unprepared student? It was an e-mail threat so you’d think they could find out where it came from.

  12. BB Did you see this? Cannonfire NSA wants to give Snowden a deal?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Obama just announced yesterday there won’t be any amnesty.

      What good would that do anyway when Greenwald and Poitras have all the data along with lord knows how many other people who have part of it?

      • bostonboomer says:

        That article he’s referring to is at least three days old. Anyway, only the President could make that kind of decision and it would set a ridiculously bad precedent. None of the other whistleblowers (except Manning, who was in the active military) has gotten a long sentence (Manning will likely get off in a few years). Snowden would be better off to come back and face the music if he really wants to come home.

        So are all of the western defectors to Russia have ended up drinking themselves to death or committing suicide, so Cannon’s suggestion probably isn’t very good either.

        • dakinikat says:

          Did you see this?

          Federal judge on #NSA phone surveillance:
          • Dragnet ‘likely’ breaches 4th amendment
          • Judge calls program Orwellian

          http://trib.al/FrtchhW

          • dakinikat says:

            emptywheel ‏@emptywheel 39m
            Btw, Leon’s ruling means BOTH upstream collection under 702 and dragnet under 215 deemed unconstitutional.

          • RalphB says:

            I wouldn’t bet a penny on that standing up on appeals. It’s in response to right wing nut job Larry Klayman in the first place and to get to his ruling, the judge had to overrule the 1979 Supreme Court decision concerning ownership of meta-data. Unless the Supremes overrule themselves, this is gonna be flipped.

          • bostonboomer says:

            If it goes to SCOTUS, they’ll probably find a way to make things worse.

          • RalphB says:

            Chances are you’re right BB,

  13. dakinikat says:

    Ever wonder why banks kept losing borrowers’ loan documents? Turns out that was by design:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-16/secret-inside-bofa-office-of-ceo-stymied-needy-homeowners.html

  14. bostonboomer says:

    NSA Phone Program Likely Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/16/nsa-phone-program_n_4454538.html

  15. bostonboomer says:

    The Northeast is getting more snow tomorrow.

  16. mablue2 says:

    Sorry to be off topic here.

    Anytime I can I watch the MSNBC stream (Hey, I like being preached to, so leave me alone!), but Jesus H. Christ why does Al Sharpton have a show?

    He’s a terrible broadcaster. His show is unbearable! He yells in the mic.

    The 2nd worst is that giant buffoon Ed Schulz.

  17. dakinikat says:

    Nov 2013 was the hottest November on record. But much of the US didn’t feel it http://www.climatecentral.org/news/u.s.-sets-snowpack-milestone-as-globe-has-warmest-november-on-record-16842 … pic.twitter.com/Wo9DO1lVHg