Wednesday Reads: Yummy Socks and Boots on the Ground

441a484b939f2e917158efa1f07eb190Good Morning

It has been crazy the last couple of days here in Banjoville. So today’s post will be a quick round-up of the headlines making news this morning, with a few odd bits thrown in for fun.

First up, this disturbing article from the New York Times: U.S. General Open to Ground Forces in Fight Against ISIS in Iraq

President Obama’s top military adviser said Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States forces in ground operations against Islamic extremists in Iraq if airstrikes proved insufficient, opening the door to a riskier, more expansive American combat role than the president has publicly outlined.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while he was confident that an American-led coalition would defeat the Islamic State, he would not foreclose the possibility of asking Mr. Obama to send American troops to fight the militants on the ground — something Mr. Obama has ruled out.

“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” General Dempsey said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

I don’t know about y’all, but all this makes me nauseous.

More from McClatchy’s WASHINGTON: War on Islamic State will be long and difficult, top defense officials tell Senate

Indeed, the chances of success are far less in Syria than in Iraq, Dempsey said, as Hagel nodded agreement. “Five thousand alone is not going to be able to turn the tide,” Hagel said, referring to the number of Syrian rebels likely to be trained under a proposed U.S. program.

Even the pledge that no American soldiers would engage in ground combat operations seemed tenuous. Dempsey said he could foresee circumstances where American advisers would join Iraqi troops, for example, if the Iraqis tried to recapture Mosul, in what he called “close combat advising.”

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey told the committee.

The appearance by Dempsey and Hagel came as the U.S. Central Command announced for the second day in a row that U.S. aircraft had conducted offensive strikes under Obama’s new authorization against Islamic State targets southwest of Baghdad. The aircraft conducted three strikes against a truck, an anti-aircraft artillery piece, “a small ISIL ground unit” and “two small boats on the Euphrates River that were resupplying ISIL forces in the area,” the statement said, using the acronym for the group that the government prefers.

The article points out this key point…

In their testimony, Hagel and Dempsey sought to brace the nation for a long war with an uncertain duration and outcome, repeatedly telling senators that they would make adjustments to the strategy as necessary.

Both struggled to define what degrading and destroying the Islamic State would look like. At one point, Dempsey suggested that it might be as simple as depriving the Islamic State forces of their current ability to move back and forth across the Syrian and Iraqi dividing line. “Restore the border and then they are defeated,” he said.

They also were at pains to explain whether the Islamic State presented an imminent threat to the United States. “Although the intelligence community has not yet detected specific plotting against the U.S. homeland, ISIL has global aspirations,” Hagel said. “If left unchecked, ISIL will directly threaten our homeland and our allies.”

Ugh, I’m past nausea. I think the dry heaves are coming next…Robert Fisk. Take it for what it is, okay? My mind is really too fried to make sense of anything now, but I got to say, any “arrangement” or “collaboration” made with Assad is bad news…IMHO. Assad’s letter to the US: How Syria is luring President Obama into its web – Middle East – World – The Independent

Syria has asked Washington to engage in military and intelligence collaboration to defeat their mutual enemy Isis, inviting US congressmen and senators to visit Damascus to discuss joint action against the jihadis who threaten both America and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

It’s an offer that President Barack Obama will have to refuse – but not without some embarrassment. After deciding to bomb the forces of Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, in Syria as well as Iraq, Mr Obama was confronted by Vladimir Putin’s warning that any such unilateral action in Syria would be “an act of aggression”.

The US President will now have to explain yet again why he cannot collaborate against America’s “apocalyptic” enemies with a Syrian regime which he has also sworn to overthrow – even though this regime is fighting exactly the same enemies.

 

And as if all this was not enough to get you happy morning, ISIS Releases New Video Threatening to Kill U.S. Forces in Iraq

In a bizarre new video reportedly released by ISIS late Tuesday that resembles a Hollywood movie trailer, the Sunni militant group appears to threaten to kill American troops in Iraq. The short clip, apparently a preview of a longer video called “Flames of War,” ends with the message, “fighting has just begun” and that more is “coming soon.”

The video was released hours after Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that ground troops might be necessary in the military campaign against ISIS in Iraq. In the clip, audio of Obama saying, “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” can be heard. The video also comes after a televised address from Obama last week, where he vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.

The House is set to vote today to allow the U.S. to train and arm Syrian rebels in the country, where ISIS has taken sanctuary. “If we want to open a front against (Islamic State forces) in Syria, we have to open a front. And I don’t see any other way to do it than try to build an alternative force,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, lead Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press. “No one’s excited about it but, you know, it’s the best from a series of bad options.”

Video that was at the link has been removed, but from what few still images I saw….all I can say is…damn. As the author of the Gawker article so aptly states:

This looks like a Michael Bay movie?

Enough of this shit. On to another vomit inducing topic. Still Playing: 12 NFL Players Have Domestic Violence Arrests – NBC News.com

Ray Rice may never again play in the NFL, but a dozen other players with domestic violence arrests are still suiting up on Sundays.

Ray McDonald and Chris Cook of the San Francsico 49ers, Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams of the Seattle Seahawks, Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes of the Chicago Bears, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, Erik Walden of the Indianapolis Colts, Donte Whitner of the Cleveland Browns, Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins and Frostee Rucker of the Arizona Cardinals have all been arrested for domestic violence or related charges since 2005, according to a USA Today database that tracks players’ arrests since 2000.

Some fought the charges and won. Others accepted blame, served short suspensions and returned to the game. The rest are still waiting for their day in court, the focus of intense new scrutiny as America’s most powerful sports league faces growing criticism over its handling of players’ off-the-field conduct.

 [...]

Domestic violence and related incidents rank among the NFL’s biggest off-the-field problems, with 87 arrests involving 80 players over the last 14 years. The only other crime category with a larger number of arrests involving NFL players is DUI. But while the arrests are troubling, the rate is lower than the national average for men of similar age, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

The team with the most arrests of players for domestic violence and related charges is the Denver Broncos, with 12. But it hasn’t had one since 2010, when linebacker Kevin Alexander was cut a day after he was accused of hitting his girlfriend (the charges were later dropped). The team prides itself on its battery of professional-development resources. “While this is a very important issue, our team hasn’t had such an incident in nearly four years,” spokesman Patrick Smyth said. “It has zero such incidents under our current football leadership structure, which has been in place since 2011.”

Offenders on the field

Of the 12 active players with domestic violence-related arrests, the one with the most is Brandon Marshall, who has three. He’s never been convicted, but he served a three-game suspension in 2008 for personal conduct violations. But from there his story changes. He’s sought treatment, become an outspoken voice against domestic violence and is now considered a success, on and off the field.

Marshall has been offering commentary on the NFL’s unfolding crisis as an analyst for Showtime’s Inside the NFL. He said in a recent episode that he wasn’t sure whether a stricter disciplinary policy would have deterred him from violent behavior back then. The difference, he said, was deciding that he needed help.

Another player who has turned his career around is Bryant, a wide receiver for the Cowboys. In 2012, he was accused of hitting his mother, and agreed to anger counseling in exchange for having the charge dismissed. The NFL didn’t suspend him, but imposed a strict set of conduct guidelines that included counseling and a curfew. Last year, he showed up at a rally against domestic violence.

Then there’s Walden, a linebacker who was suspended by the Green Bay Packers for one game in 2011 after being jailed for an alleged assault against his live-in girlfriend. In court, he submitted to a deferred judgment agreement that allowed him to avoid pleading guilty while receiving counseling. He’s since landed with the Colts.

Cook, a cornerback, was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in October 2011. He sat out most of the season for the Minnesota Vikings, but was later acquitted of all charges. The Vikings reinstated him, and he now is a teammate of McDonald’s in San Francisco.

McDaniel, a defensive tackle, was on the Miami Dolphins in 2010 when he was arrested for shoving his girlfriend, whose head hit the pavement. He pleaded no contest, was put on probation, and the league suspended him one game. He is now playing in Seattle.

Whitner, a safety then with the Buffalo Bills, was accused of harassment in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend in 2006. The charges were later dropped, and the NFL imposed no punishment. He’s now playing in his native Cleveland.

Starks, a defensive tackle, was charged with domestic assault on his fiancée in 2006, while he was playing for the Tennessee Titans. He was ordered to receive counseling as part of a diversion program and was suspended for one preseason game. He now plays in Miami.

Rucker, a defensive end, was arrested after a fight with his girlfriend at a party in Los Angeles in 2006, when he was a Cincinnati Bengals draft pick. He pleaded no contest, and was suspended for a game, but successfully appealed the punishment because he’d been in college at the time of the incident. Rucker now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.

Holmes, a wide receiver, has a long list of run-ins with the law. His domestic violence arrest came in 2006, when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the mother of his children accused him of choking her and slamming her into a door. But she later was reluctant to testify, and the charges were dropped. Holmes’ lawyers promised he’d participate in counseling through the NFL. He now plays with Marshall in Chicago.

Williams, a defensive tackle with a lengthy history of legal troubles, was on the Vikings in 2005 when he was accused of domestic assault for a fight with his wife at home. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was put on probation, but the NFL didn’t suspended him. In 2011, however, Williams was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. He now plays in Seattle.

The Joan Rivers case gets more disturbing as the weeks go by. Did y’all know her doctor had been sued for malpractice for taking a biopsy on someone without permission several years ago? Now this new information…Source: Joan Rivers’ doc did biopsy, selfie at clinic – CNN.com

The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers’ death happened as the comedian’s personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN.

A staff member at Manhattan’s Yorkville Endoscopy clinic told investigators that the doctor, who has not been publicly identified, took a selfie photo in the procedure room while Rivers was under anesthesia, the source said.

Rivers, 81, was at the clinic for a scheduled endoscopy by another doctor, gastroenterologist Dr. Lawrence Cohen. That procedure, intended to help diagnose her hoarse voice and sore throat, involved the insertion of a camera down her throat.

After Cohen, the clinic’s medical director, finished his work, a biopsy was done on Rivers without her prior consent, according to the source.

Yuk! All these selfies and cell phone apps! The world is really becoming a slave to those things: Chinese city creates cellphone sidewalk lane – Yahoo News

Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they’re going.

But the property manager says it’s intended to be ironic — to remind people that it’s dangerous to tweet while walking the street.

“There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” said Nong Cheng, the marketing official with Meixin Group, which manages the area in the city’s entertainment zone.

Meixin has marked a 50-meter (165-foot) stretch of pavement with two lanes: one that prohibits cellphone use next to one that allows pedestrians to use them — at their “own risk.”

Nong said the idea came from a similar stretch of pavement in Washington D.C. created by National Geographic Television in July as part of a behavior experiment.

I don’t think it is too much of a jump from “joke” to “for serious.”

My family just got new iPhones. I don’t have any clue what to do with these things. They are not the new 6s…they’re 5s and so intimidating, how can people stare at those things so damn long and not get sick.

Just a few more quick links.

PA State police name ‘survivalist’ as gunman who killed trooper

A man described as a “survivalist,” a trained marksman with antigovernment leanings, was the gunman who killed one state police officer and injured a second in an ambush outside the barracks here last week, investigators said Tuesday.

At an afternoon news conference, police said they identified 31-year-old Eric Matthew Frein from documents he left in a Jeep he abandoned about two miles from the barracks, where he ambushed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass on Friday. Dickson was killed and Douglass critically injured.

Frein, who lived with his parents in Monroe County, was at large and considered extremely dangerous, possibly armed with a high-powered rifle that looks like an AK-47, police said.

Richard III killed in battle while horseless | Al Jazeera America

England’s King Richard III might well have lost his kingdom for a horse.

The reviled king suffered nearly a dozen injuries on the battlefield, but the fatal blows were probably only sustained after he had to abandon his horse, according to a new paper in medical journal the Lancet.

[...]

“Richard was probably in quite a lot of pain at the end,” said Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Leicester and one of the study’s authors. She said the king was most likely attacked by numerous assailants after dismounting from his horse, which got stuck in a marsh.

Richard’s skeleton showed evidence of 11 injuries from weapons including daggers, swords and a long metal pole with an ax and hook that was used to pull knights off their horses. “Medieval battle was bloody and brutal,” she said, noting one of the injuries showed a sword had pierced his skull.

The nine injuries Richard suffered to his head suggest the king somehow lost or took off his helmet during the battle at Bosworth Field, against his rival and successor, Henry Tudor, on Aug. 22, 1485. He was the last English monarch to die in battle.

So…perhaps Black Adder, I mean, Shakespeare had it right?

Richard III: [looking for a horse] A horse!

[whistles]

Richard III: A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

[sees a horse]

Richard III: Ah! Horsey.

For our final link, a story about a dog…a Great Dane…those dogs are as big as a horse: Great Dane dined on 43 socks; all were removed in successful surgery – LA Times

A veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in a Great Dane's stomach during surgery in Portland, Ore. The animal hospital that removed the socks submitted the dog's X-ray, shown above, for a tongue-in-cheek industry award. (DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital)

A veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in a Great Dane’s stomach during surgery in Portland, Ore. The animal hospital that removed the socks submitted the dog’s X-ray, shown above, for a tongue-in-cheek industry award. (DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital)

140-pound Great Dane in Portland, Ore., is making headlines after a veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in the dog’s stomach during surgery.

The incident happened in February but only recently became public after the animal hospital where the socks were removed submitted the dog’s X-ray for a tongue-in-cheek industry award, said Shawna Harch, spokeswoman for DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital.

DoveLewis is where the 3-year-old dog went for the operation when the owners noticed the animal was growing increasingly ill but did not know why, Harch said.

The surgery took nearly three hours, but the dog has fully recovered, Harch said.

Ailing Great Dane in Oregon packed his belly with 43.5 socks – Yahoo News

The 3-year-old canine, who had an affinity for chewing on socks but was not known to swallow them whole, was rushed to Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in February, hospital spokeswoman Shawna Harch said.

“We see some very strange things, but this is by far the most socks we’ve ever pulled out of an animal,” Harch said after X-ray images of the dog’s belly won a tongue-in-cheek veterinary industry prize called “They ate WHAT?”

DoveLewis will use the prize money to fund emergency care for pets of low-income animal owners, Harch said.

The Great Dane appeared to favor lush, colored socks in smaller sizes, images of the retrieved items showed. The sock-devouring pooch’s owners are keeping the hungry dog’s name private, Harch said.

“His owners wish to remain anonymous,” she said. “But they are getting a kick out of the award.”

And on that note…I will pass it on to you.

Have a brilliant day!


Tuesday Reads

surprised-women-reading-n-0011-400x276

Good Morning!!

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is topping the headlines today. The Obama administration announced this morning that it will send military troops to deal with the situation. Reuters Reports:

The United States announced on Tuesday that it would send 3,000 troops to help tackle the Ebola outbreak as part of a ramped-up response including a major deployment in Liberia, the country where the epidemic is spiraling fastest out of control.

The U.S. response to the crisis, to be formally unveiled later by President Barack Obama, includes plans to build 17 treatment centers, train thousands of healthcare workers and establish a military control center for coordination, U.S. officials told reporters.

The World Health Organization has said it needs foreign medical teams with 500-600 experts as well as at least 10,000 local health workers, numbers that may rise if the number of cases increases, as it is widely expected to.

Liberia is where the disease appears to be running amok. The WHO has not issued any estimate of cases or deaths in the country since Sept 5 and its Director-General Margaret Chan has said there is not a single bed available for Ebola patients there.

Liberia, a nation founded by descendants of freed American slaves, appealed for U.S. help last week.

A U.N. official in the country said on Friday that her colleagues had resorted to telling locals to use plastic bags to fend off the killer virus, for want of any other protective equipment.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the charity that has been leading the fight against Ebola, said it was overwhelmed and repeated its call for an immediate and massive deployment.

More details from The Washington Post, U.S. military will lead $750 million fight against Ebola in West Africa.

BMH.F.74.1-O

The president’s decision to enlist the U.S. military, whose resources are already under strain as it responds to conflicts in the Middle East, reflects the growing concern of U.S. officials that, unless greater force is brought to bear, the epidemic could wreak havoc on the continent….

Global health experts and international aid groups who have been urging the White House to dramatically scale up its response praised the plan as described. They have said charities and West African governments alone do not have the capacity to stem the epidemic.

The U.S. military, with its enormous logistical capability, extensive air operations, and highly skilled medical corps, could address gaps in the response quickly.

“This is a really significant response on the military side,” said Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a book about the first Ebola outbreak in 1976 and another on the global public-health system. “This is really beginning to seem like a game-changer.”

But much depends on how quickly personnel and supplies can get there.

“The problem is, for every single thing we’re doing, we’re racing against the virus, and the virus has the high ground right now,” she said. “I would hope this would reduce transmission, but it’s all about how fast people can get there and get the job done. If it takes weeks to mobilize, the strategy won’t even be within reach.”

Unfortunately, according to Reuters India, <a href=”http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/09/16/health-ebola-spread-liberia-idINKBN0HB1CD20140916&#8243; target=”_blank”>it make take weeks or months for the operation to get up to speed</a>. For more background on the Ebola virus, you can read a <a href=”http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/qa.html&#8221; target=”_blank”>”questions and answers” page</a> at the CDC and a <a href=”http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/&#8221; target=”_blank”>fact sheet</a> at WHO.

For the past week or so, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the NFL’s domestic violence problem, and in recent days, we’ve focused on Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson’s indictment for beating and injuring his four-year old son. Yesterday we learned  that Peterson was also investigated in 2013 for causing head injuries and scars to another four-year-old son from a different mother but was not charged. According to ABC News, Peterson has five children, only one of who lives with him.

man and woman newspaper

As is usually the case with abusers, Adrian Peterson was also a victim in his childhood. Sadly, based on his public statements, Peterson has not yet accepted that what his parents did to him was wrong, and he has continued the cycle of violence with his own children. In fact, he has even praised his parents for the whippings they administered. From ABC News:

Adrian Peterson’s apology for the “hurt” he inflicted on his young son when he punished the boy with a switch was the result of the respect Peterson had for similar discipline his parents had applied to him.

The football star even praised his parents’ tough discipline in his statement today, saying that it prevented him from being “one of those kids that was lost in the streets.”

“I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man,” he said in a statement.

How bad was it? From USA Today, Whippings part of Adrian Peterson’s childhood.

PALESTINE, Texas — David Cummings and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson still talk about the frequent whippings Peterson’s father administered — and one whipping in particular.

Cummings says he and Peterson were leaving football practice while in middle school when Peterson’s father, Nelson, was waiting near the parking lot.

School officials had called Nelson Peterson to report that Adrian had been disruptive in class, recalled Cummings, who played football and basketball with Adrian Peterson during their youth and through high school.

“His dad asked what happened, and Adrian told him,” Cummings said.

With that, Nelson Peterson unstrapped his belt and whipped Adrian Peterson in front of more than 20 students, Cummings said.

Imagine how humiliating that must have been! But Peterson had to suppress his anger at this mistreatment in order to survive in his violent family. Peterson also experience severe childhood trauma, according to ABC News.

When Peterson was 7, he witnessed a drunk driver fatally hit his 9-year-old brother while he was riding his bike. More recently, Peterson’s half brother was fatally shot in Houston in 2007 shortly before the NFL draft.

He told USA Today that when he was 13, his father was sentenced to 10 years in jail after selling crack cocaine for a drug ring and getting caught on drug laundering charges. Visits to the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institution and regular letters kept the pair close, but family friends remembered his father Nelson as “a firm disciplinarian.”

troops reading news

USA Today interviewed Peterson’s childhood friend David Cummings about the corporal punishment their parents used when they were growing up.

PALESTINE, Texas — When Adrian Peterson got whippings as a child, it often involved an assignment: Go find a “switch,” a tree branch that would be used to inflict the punishment.

David Cummings, one of Peterson’s longtime friends in their hometown of Palestine, Texas, tookUSA TODAY Sports on a tour of the wooded area near their homes. Switch heaven. Or, depending on your perspective, switch hell.

“It wouldn’t be a shock to be seen anywhere to get a switch,’’ he said.

But the prime spot were the two trees in the frontyard of Cummings’ family home, across the street from the split-level red brick home where Adrian spent many weekends with his father and grandmother. During the tour, Cummings tugged a branch off the one of the trees and sized it up.

“You’re going to get a bruise from it more than likely,’’ he said.

Oh, and Cummings said they gladly found their switches in light of the alternative: get whipped with a stinging, leather belt.

Unfortunately, Peterson has carried the cycle of violence into the next generation, inflicting abuse on his own children. He needs serious therapy, but first he needs to break the denial and admit that what he experience is child abuse and it is wrong.

Child abuse obviously is not just an African American thing, but I found this interesting op-ed at NOLA.com by Jarvis DeBerry on corporal punishment in black culture, Where did black folks learn of whippings, and why are they still a thing?

When I saw the news that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had been arrested for whipping his young son with a switch, I immediately thought of a 1998 feature story by Washington Post writer Deneen L. Brown.  It’s called “A good whuppin?” Editors at The Washington Post thought of it, too. When I did a search for Brown’s story after the Peterson arrest, I happily discovered that her feature story is now on the newspaper’s website.

Better than anybody else I’ve seen, Brown gives a history of corporal punishment in African-American communities. She also does a good job explaining how stories of a “good whuppin'” become the best-told stories of our adulthood.

But there’s another reason the story has always lodged in my head: In doing her research about this kind of punishment, Brown talks to a chair of the department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University who says that black people did not bring this kind of punishment over from Africa. He asserts that black people learned it here.

“There is not a record in African culture of the kind of body attack that whipping represents,” that scholar told Brown for her 1998 report. “The maintenance of order by physical coercion is rare in Africa.”

The belief is that black people began whipping their children out of fear that the overseers and masters would whip them worse. If so, it’s easy to empathize with parents who made that choice.  But if those parents inflicted the same punishment that the slave master would have inflicted, how is that punishment a good thing? Is there a difference between a hateful beating and a loving one? Does the latter feel less painful than the former? Does the skin heal differently?

There’s much more. Read it all at NOLA.com.

crowds-of-people-clustered-in-the-streets-reading-news-about-the-markets-11-dive

Here are a few more links to check out, if you’re interested. I need to wrap this up before it gets too late or WordPress decides to wipe out this post again.

I haven’t read all of this yet, but I thought it looked really interesting. From Collectors Weekly, Women Who Conquered the Comics World, by Lisa Hix.

Scotland will vote on independence from Great Britain on Thursday, and England is pulling out all the stops to get them to vote “no.”

The New York Times, London Repeats Offer of New Powers if Scotland Votes No on Independence.

The Independent UK, David Cameron delivers emotional plea for Scotland to stay.

An update on the child sexual abuse scandal in Britain from the New York Times, Police Chief Quit Over Child Abuse Scandal in English Town.

On the Ukraine crisis, The BBC reports, Rebels granted self-rule and amnesty.

USA Today, U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State in Iraq

NBC News, Ray Rice Isn’t Alone: 1 in 5 Men Admits Hitting Wives, Girlfriends.

Advertising Age, Radisson Suspends Vikings Sponsorship Over Peterson Charges.

Io9, Schizophrenia is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!


Sunday Reads: A Morbidity Play for the Masses

belle4Good Morning

Oh, isn’t it spectacular that my internet is working? In fact, it has been functioning long enough for me to work on uploading some photos for a thread I have been planning since Robin Williams committed suicide.

The title and that first paragraph should give you all a hint, this post will center on suicide…not entirely, but as you read through it you will see photographs of classic movie stars who committed suicide. Click on the picture to open a link to their Wikipedia biography page for more information on their life..and death. Some are truly fascinating and terrible sad to read about.

Take Alan Ladd for instance, Where Danger Lives: Just Shy of Respect: The Hollywood Life and Death of Alan Ladd

Most people believe Alan Ladd committed suicide, but the details surrounding his death are so convoluted no one can be sure what really happened. History is often guilty of erring on the side of sensationalism — but in Ladd’s case suicide is the logical assumption.

Alan Ladd, Blue Dahlia

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, Blue Dahlia

In 1962 he was found lying half-dead in a pool of blood with a bullet lodged in his chest. The newspapers bought into the story of an accident, but everyone who knew him believed it was a botched suicide attempt. It really doesn’t matter whether his January 1964 death was intentional or not; Ladd’s life had been in a downward spiral for years — some could say from the moment he broke into the movie business — and it was apparent that he was hell-bent on digging an early grave.

This is a very good article so be sure to read the whole thing…but for now I will skip to the end of Ladd.

On January 29, 1964, eight weeks prior to the release of The Carpetbaggers, Ladd’s butler discovered his body in his Palm Springs bedroom. Having mixed liquor and sleeping pills one time too many, his body finally failed. It’s easy to believe he killed himself, but whether he chose to end his life that night or not, the more important truth is that some people are simply not blessed with happiness, despite fame and fortune, and try as they might their pain is such that it eventually overwhelms them. Nobody in Hollywood was surprised to learn that Alan Ladd was dead.

Everett Sloane

Everett Sloane

You can read many more names of actors and actresses who took their lives here:

Category:  Male actors who committed suicide – Wikipedia

Category:  Actresses who committed suicide – Wikipedia

First up, a new study on suicide.

WHO report maps global suicide problem for the first time

One person takes their own life every 40 seconds, equating to 803,900 deaths across the world every year, according to the first World Health Organization report on suicide prevention released today. “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative” calls for co-ordinated action to reduce suicide worldwide.

Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer

Diego De Leo, director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University, who was involved in the preparation of the report, said there had not been any previous reports because suicide was an example of negative behaviour rather than a disease, so it did not fall within the jurisdiction of an international entity.

“But this is a fundamental step before we can begin on worldwide suicide prevention,” he said.

It is good that a base report of this magnitude has finally been done, read the rest of this story at the link because it has a lot of information and graphs…it is just too much to quote.

paul hurst

paul hurst

Alright now, back to things less depressing. How about a couple of links on classic film, be sure to check out Fridays on TCM: Friday Night Spotlight – Classic Pre-Code

Pre-Code Hollywood is generally considered to be the era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound in the late 1920s and the strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code beginning in the mid-1930s. Films of this period included unflinching portrayals of such subject matter as sexuality, prostitution, illegal drug use, abortion and extreme violence. Without the interference of censors, law-breakers in the movies were often allowed to profit from their schemes, and fallen women became the heroines of many films. Gangster films were popular, and their protagonists were viewed with some sympathy despite their law-breaking ways.

paul-hurst-411295lIn a continuation of its popular “Friday Night Spotlight” franchise, TCM shines a light on this free-wheeling cinematic period, presenting a weekly 24-hour festival of pre-Code movies. Each Friday in September, Alec Baldwin and TCM host Robert Osborne will introduce the films airing in primetime. The collection, which includes a total of 67 movies, covers a wide range of genres and represents the output of all the major Hollywood studios of the era.

Some very good flicks are coming up in the next few weeks. Don’t miss them.

A few you should see are discussed in this blog post from Movie Morelocks: moviemorlocks.com – Navigating the Moral Waters of the Crime Film

Ever rooted for the bad guy?  Of course you have, we all have.  Many times the bad guy is more interesting, more exciting, and much more charismatic.  To take two obvious examples, Batman is brooding and Superman is upstanding but neither is terribly interesting while their nemeses, the Joker and

Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman

Lex Luthor, are a hoot and despite their clearly psychotic natures,  fun to watch.   The movies picked up on this long before comic books even came into existence and once the sound era began, making criminals the star of the show became even more apparent.  In the course of a little over a year, moviegoers were treated to Little Caesar, Public Enemy, and Scarface, all putting the bad guys front and center as the stars of the movie.  And all tried their damnedest to convince moviegoers that while they were the stars, their actions were wrong.  As time went on, and the production code waned, the movies could be a little more honest about why they were making crime movies:  Because they’re exciting and fun even if we know they present a romanticized view calibrated precisely for our enjoyment.

Barbara Bates

Barbara Bates

If we weren’t enjoying those wiseguys and goodfellas, maybe we were taking note of the puppies? How the films you’ve seen influence your choice of dog

Did watching 101 Dalmatians instill you with a burning desire to fill your home with dozens of monochrome puppies? A new study suggests that may often be the case. The research suggests that all those great canine characters in films have been a prominent influence on the popularity of a breed among dog owners.

The impact of 29 films released in the United States was examined, each featuring a different dog breed. Classics such as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Fox and the Hound (1981) and Beethoven (1992) were all judged to have influenced people’s choice of dogs. The study traces the popularity of the featured breeds for up to ten years after the film’s release.

Ona Munson (1939)

Ona Munson (1939)

The authors used the records of the American Kennel Club, which has been recording the numbers of registration for each dog breed since 1927, and keeps the largest such dog registry in the world. Looking at the effect of films released between 1927 and 2005, the study shows that the number of registrations of a particular breed rose significantly following the release of a film in which the breed had been featured.

[...]

The films analysed covered quite a spread of breeds. Other factors you might assume come into play when choosing a dog, such as temperament or health, seemed not to affect the scale of these trends. Alberto Acerbi, one of the authors of the study and Newton Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, said: “It seems to be pure fashion.”

Luigi Pistilli

Luigi Pistilli

A connection between the number of film views in the first weekend after its release and the rise in the popularity of the dog breed featured was observed. The study shows that earlier films generally created more widespread trends than the more recent films. The authors conjecture that this could be linked to the rise of home video, as well as the increase in the number of films released featuring dogs each year.

More at the link, including a big infographic.

Ah, enough of movies, how about life in the real world?

ca. 1960s --- Actress Capucine --- Image by © John Springer

ca. 1960s — Actress Capucine — Image by © John Springer

Over in Europe, the Premier League stars to wear rainbow laces in anti-homophobia campaign

More than 100,000 pairs of coloured laces distributed as part of Stonewall campaign to raise awareness of discrimination

The QPR midfielder Joey Barton, Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta, and the newly capped England midfielder Fabian Delph will join other Premier League players in wearing laces in the rainbow colours of the gay pride flag this weekend in a bid to stamp out homophobia in football.

Celebrities and former professionals, including former England striker Michael Owen, and the ex-Germany and Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger – who announced he was gay after retiring from playing last year – will also wear rainbow laces for the anti-discrimination campaign by the pressure group Stonewall.

[...]

James Taylor from Stonewall said: “This weekend football players and clubs up and down the country are lacing up to show their support for kicking homophobia out of football.

David Rappaport

David Rappaport

“We’re delighted to have the support of Arsenal, Manchester City, the backing of the Premier League, the FA and many others this weekend to help raise awareness of homophobia in football and the need to tackle it.”

Good for them!

The post is getting long and it is getting way to late (3:15am) for me. So the rest of today’s links will be in dump format.

Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg

This is one story I think is getting lost in the shuffle: Despite Obama’s Pledge to Curb It, NSA Mass Surveillance Wins Rubber Stamp – NationalJournal.com

A further look at the horrible sex abuse in Rotherham, England:  ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: The Rotherham Report On Child Sexual Exploitation. My Analysis.

Jay Fox at Salon asks: Can corporations go to hell? An existential quandary for the Supreme Court – Salon.com

Last week, Jaws actor from Bond films Richard Kiel dies at 74 – Latest News – JamaicaObserver.com

In this October, 2007 file photo, actor Roger Moore (right) who played the part of James Bond 007 in seven films, poses with actor Richard Kiel who played the role of Jaws in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ during a ceremony honouring Moore with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (Photo:AP)

FRESNO, California (AP) — Richard Kiel, the towering actor best known for portraying steel-toothed villain Jaws in a pair of James Bond films, has died. He was 74.

Herve Villechaize

Herve Villechaize

Kelley Sanchez, director of communications at Saint Agnes Medical Centre, confirmed Wednesday that Kiel was a patient at the hospital and died. Kiel’s agent, Steven Stevens, also confirmed his death. Both declined to provide further details.

The 7-foot-2-inch performer famously played the cable-chomping henchman who tussled with Roger Moore’s Bond in 1977’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and 1979’s ‘Moonraker’. Bond quipped of the silent baddie: “His name’s Jaws. He kills people.”

When we were kids my brother used to call “Jaws” … “Teeth”… and would laugh at my braces and say that I looked like him.

Most birds can’t taste sugar – here’s why the hummingbird can

Chickens are not fussy eaters. Any object resembling food is worth an exploratory peck. But give a chicken the choice between sugary sweets and seeds, and they will pick the grains every time. This is odd. Many animals, including our own sugar-mad species, salivate for sugar because it is the flavour of foods rich in energy. New research suggests

Clara Blandick (June 4, 1880 – April 15, 1962) was an American stage and screen actress, best known for her role as Aunt Em, the wife of Uncle Henry, in MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

Clara Blandick (June 4, 1880 – April 15, 1962) was an American stage and screen actress, best known for her role as Aunt Em, the wife of Uncle Henry, in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz.

that many birds’ lack of interest in sugar is down to genes inherited from their dinosaur ancestors.

Most vertebrates experience because they possess a family of genes called T1Rs. The pairing of T1R1 and T1R3 detects amino acids and gives rise to the savoury “umami” taste, and the T1R2-T1R3 pair detects sugars and gives us our sweet tooth.

Maude Baldwin, a postgraduate student at Harvard University, searched the genomes of ten species of birds from chickens to flycatchers. She found that insectivorous and grain-eating birds possess the gene pair that detects the amino acids present in insects and seeds, but none had the T1R2 gene responsible for the ability to taste sugar. These modern birds evolved from carnivorous theropod dinosaurs whose diets were rich in proteins and amino acids, but lacked sugar. So Baldwin reasoned that without a need to detect sweetness, ancient birds lost their T1R2 gene.

Bing Crosby lost two of his sons to suicide...Dennis and Lindsay. Photo from the television program I've Got a Secret. From left: Garry Moore, Lindsay Crosby, Betsy Palmer, Phillip Crosby, Dennis Crosby.

Bing Crosby lost two of his sons to suicide…Dennis and Lindsay. Photo from the television program I’ve Got a Secret. From left: Garry Moore, Lindsay Crosby, Betsy Palmer, Phillip Crosby, Dennis Crosby.

Hummingbirds appear to have bucked the trend. Every day they consume more than their own body weight in nectar. They can taste the difference between water and a sugar solution within a quarter of a second. And they also like the flavour of non-sugary artificial sweeteners like erythritol and sorbitol. How is this possible if they have no gene for sweet taste?

Go to the link to get the answer to the question. I don’t know about the sweet taste, but down in Florida there were these insects, nasty little fuckers (literally) called Love Bugs. They are black with red eyes and spend all their lives flying around  mating. The birds don’t eat them because, as my Nano used to say…they taste bad. I don’t remember frogs or lizards eating them either.

Another science link: A big chunk of the Sierra Nevada caught fracturing on video | Ars Technica

One more rocky story…New study reconstructs mega-earthquakes timeline in Indian Ocean

George Sanders

George Sanders

How about a spooky story, Are you brave enough to look into Timothy Clark Smiths grave with a window?

Or a kick ass medical science one: Baltimore girl with Type 1 diabetes tests bionic pancreas at camp – baltimoresun.com

Boston Boomer had a couple of links this week, one about swimming dinosaurs and the other about the culture of women in video game development. I will end this post with my own contribution to those same topics.

First, this big…and I am talking big, discovery: Newly discovered dinosaur, Dreadnoughtus, takes title of largest terrestrial animal – The Washington Post

Walter Slezak

Walter Slezak

Scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a new long-necked, long-tailed dinosaur that has taken the crown for largest terrestrial animal with a body mass that can be accurately determined.

Measurements of bones from its hind leg and foreleg revealed that the animal was 65 tons, and still growing when it died in the Patagonian hills of Argentina about 77 million years ago.

“To put this in perspective, an African elephant is about five tons, T. rex is eight tons, Diplodocus is 18 tons, and a Boeing 737 is around 50 tons,” said study author and paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara at Drexel University. “And then you have Dreadnoughtus at 65 tons.”

Press-Size-ComparisonTons-1024x962

Dreadnoughtus, meaning “fears nothing,” is named after the impervious early 20th century battleships. Although it was a plant-eater, a healthy Dreadnoughtus likely had no real issues with predators due to its intimidating size and muscular, weaponized tail.

Damn, the ass on that thing is almost as big as mine!

Lupe Vélez and Gary Cooper in The Wolf Song (1929)

Lupe Vélez and Gary Cooper in The Wolf Song (1929)

As for the gaming women in a mans world, you are going to love this: Teens Invent ‘Tampon Run’ Game to De-Stigmatize Periods

“The taboo that surrounds [periods] teaches women that a normal and natural bodily function is embarrassing and crude.” That’s the message two teenagers want to send with their new video game, Tampon Run.

As seen on Fast Co. Exist, the video game invented by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser grew out of their involvement with a Girls Who Code summer program. The gameplay is simple enough, according to the instructions:

“Hit all the enemies with your tampons. Don’t let them pass you. They’ll confiscate your tampons [like the Texas State Troopers during a reproductive rights demonstration]. Collect tampon boxes for more tampons. Don’t run out of tampons or it’s GAME OVER.”

But the message behind the game is a little more complex. The two young developers wanted to find a way to make having your period seem less humiliating and more normalized

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Check out more at the link and play the game here: TamponRun.com

That’s all folks…I will be gone all day, on a mall trip to Atlanta. Yay! So hopefully there will be no problems with the formatting on the post. Have a happy day, and post some thoughts in the comments below.

Here is a gallery of all the pictures, some of them I did not post in the thread above…just too many!


Thursday Reads

War, Pablo Picasso

War, Pablo Picasso

Good Morning!!

Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.

 

Reactions to Obama’s speech

From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.

President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.

In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.

“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”

In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.

According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso's Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso’s Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.

Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.

In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.

At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.

Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.

 

It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

A couple more interesting stories to check out:

Imran Kahn at Aljazira, Iraq and the Obama plan: Officials and experts broadly welcome US president’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group, but with crucial caveats.

Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.

 

Violence Against Women News

From Picasso's War, a commentary on race hatred

From Picasso’s War, a commentary on race hatred

I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.

The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter.  The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.

In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.

“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.

She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.

On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.

The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.

That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.

The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.

The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.

ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.

Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.

One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.

“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.

The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.

“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.

“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”

There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.

A few more links:

NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?

SB Nation, Ray Rice speaks out for the first time since his release.

CBS Sports, Ray Rice’s wife: How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid.

NYT, In Ray Rice cast, NFL sees only what it wants to see.

 

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Other News, Links Only

AP, USIS, the contractor that handled Edward Snowden’s security clearance loses federal contract.

BBC News, Michael Brown death: Ferguson highway protest blocked.

The Guardian, Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more.

The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.

ABC News, Five things that may happen if Scotland votes for independence.

Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.

Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.

HNGN, Baboons With Closer Friends Have Longer Lives Than Loners.

Forbes, Scientists find gene that may delay aging of whole body.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.

 

Peace, Pablo Picasso

Peace, Pablo Picasso

 

 


Live Blog: President Obama’s Speech on Dealing with Islamic State Militants

In this image made through a window of the Oval Office, President Obama speaks on the phone to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday (NPR)

In this image made through a window of the Oval Office, President Obama speaks on the phone to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Wednesday (NPR)

President Obama will give a prime-time speech at 9:00 tonight in which he will lay out a strategy to deal with the Islamic State Militants in Iraq and Syria. Let’s watch the speech together and discuss on what the President says in real time. I’ve gathered some links to articles that report on and react to the leaked content of the speech.

According to The Washington Post, Obama will announce a ‘broad coalition’ to fight the Islamic State terror group.

The United States will lead a “broad coalition” to defeat the Islamic State through air strikes and support for military partners on the ground, President Obama will announce Wednesday night….Obama will tell the country that the offensive against the militant group will not involve combat troops, but rather a “steady, relentless effort” that involves air power and backing for partner forces, according to early excerpts provided by the White House.

“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama will say, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Obama will make clear to a war-weary public that the offensive will not resemble the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but rather other, more covert, missions against terrorists.

“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” Obama will tell the nation.

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

Frankly, I’m very worried about this. I really don’t see how this is going to end well. I hope I’m wrong.

Richard Engel writes at NBC News, What Happens After the U.S. Bombs ISIS?

On one level, bombing ISIS is easy. The U.S. knows where the group operates. There’s no need for a ten-year hunt like the one for Osama bin Laden. The terror group has two capital cities, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Al-Qaeda never had such an obvious home address.

Finding a justification to attack ISIS is also simple. It has threatened to carry out another 9/11, beheaded two American journalists, slaughtered thousands of Iraqis and Syrians and is a danger to U.S. allies in the region. Many in the U.S. military believe ISIS needs to be immediately, and repeatedly, smashed by American drones and warplanes.

But what then happens to the Middle East – this seething cauldron of competing interests, religious passions, ethnic tensions, long memories and oil? The key question now, as before the Iraq invasion, is what happens after the U.S. starts bombing.

ISIS controls a territory roughly the size of Maryland where 8 million people live. If it’s attacked and toppled, who will fill the void? In Iraq, it will be the Kurdish fighters or the Iraqi army. The two don’t trust each other and have different objectives for the territory they control. The Kurds are laying the foundation for a future independent state. The Iraqi army is increasingly an Iranian-guided, Shiite force.

The U.S. spent billions of dollars to build a secular, professional national Iraqi army but failed because, despite all the U.S.-supplied guns, tanks and planes, the Iraqi military fell apart when challenged by a band of terrorists. President Obama wants to reconstitute it now as part of his ISIS strategy. Why would it work this time when it didn’t before, even as U.S. troops were standing next to Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad, shoulder to shoulder?

Good questions. Read more at the link.

From the LA Times, Obama to call for ‘steady, relentless’ effort against Islamic State.

Nearly six years after he was elected on the promise to end America’s decade of wars, Obama planned to detail a military campaign that is broader and more complex than any he has launched during his tenure.

Obama is expected to expand U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq to include targets throughout the country as well as across the rapidly disintegrating border with Syria, where the group harbors its weapons, camps and fighters.

White House officials say Obama also plans to further train and arm Iraqi and Kurdish troops as well as opposition forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. He’ll tout beefed-up partnerships with governments in the Middle East and Western allies, who have been asked to assist in the training, gather intelligence and counter the Islamic State’s appeal in the broader Muslim world.

In his televised remarks, Obama was to describe the effort as a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”

“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” according to prepared remarks released by the White House, referring to the Islamic State by a commonly used abbreviation.

Those article spell out the gist of what the President will say. Here are a few more links to peruse if you want more.

Reuters, Bill to fund U.S. government ensnared in debate about Islamic State.

LA Times, Cheney urges Obama to launch ‘immediate’ assault on Islamic State (Sigh . . . why won’t he go away?)

Foreign Policy, There are already troops in Iraq. Problem is, they’re Iranian.

The New York Times, What Obama Faces in a Campaign Against ISIS.

Please us know what you think of the speech in the comment thread. Watch the live stream at CNN here and at the LA Times with live updating here.

 


Tuesday Reads: Art as Therapy to Help Deal With Depressing News

Still Life with a Red Rug, Henri Matisse (1906)

Still Life with a Red Rug, Henri Matisse (1906)

Good Morning!!

 

I decided I needed to look at some Matisse paintings this morning, and I’m going to include a few in this post to provide contrast to the news of the day, which is filled with violence, hate, and despair. According to the WebMuseum, Matisse was “a man of anxious temperament.”

Matisse’s art has an astonishing force and lives by innate right in a paradise world into which Matisse draws all his viewers. He gravitated to the beautiful and produced some of the most powerful beauty ever painted. He was a man of anxious temperament, just as Picasso, who saw him as his only rival, was a man of peasant fears, well concealed. Both artists, in their own fashion, dealt with these disturbances through the sublimation of painting: Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. He spoke of his art as being like “a good armchair”– a ludicrously inept comparison for such a brilliant man– but his art was a respite, a reprieve, a comfort to him.

Can art be therapy? I think so. So can reading literature or listening to music. From a review of Art as Therapy at Brain Pickings, 

The question of what art is has occupied humanity since the dawn of recorded history. For Tolstoy, the purpose of art was to providea bridge of empathy between us and others, and for Anaïs Nin, a way to exorcise our emotional excess. But the highest achievement of art might be something that reconciles the two: a channel of empathy into our own psychology that lets us both exorcise and better understand our emotions — in other words, a form of therapy.

In Art as Therapy, philosopher Alain de Botton — who has previously examined such diverse and provocative subjects as why work doesn’t work,what education and the arts can learn from religion, and how to think more about sex — teams up with art historian John Armstrong to examine art’s most intimate purpose: its ability to mediate our psychological shortcomings and assuage our anxieties about imperfection. Their basic proposition is that, far more than mere aesthetic indulgence, art is a tool — a tool that serves a rather complex yet straightforwardly important purpose in our existence:

Like other tools, art has the power to extend our capacities beyond those that nature has originally endowed us with. Art compensates us for certain inborn weaknesses, in this case of the mind rather than the body, weaknesses that we can refer to as psychological frailties.

Read about “the seven core functions of art” at the Brain Pickings link. And now, regrettably, I must turn to today’s news.

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse (1919)

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse (1919)

Ray Rice Domestic Violence News.

Yesterday’s news was dominated by reactions to gossip site TMZ’s release of the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then fiance–now wife–Janay Palmer and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic city casino elevator in February.

Suddenly, the Ravens went into ass-covering mode. The Ravens released Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. But why did it take so long? At the time, a video had been released showing Rice dragging Palmer from the elevator like a sack of potatoes.

Here’s a timeline of the Rice case from SB Nation. On Feb. 15th, after the beating, Rice and Palmer were both arrested and charged with simple assault (the charges against Palmer were later dropped). On the 19th a video was released that showed Rice coldly dragging an unconscious Palmer from the elevator like a sack of potatoes–her dress pulled up, her legs spread open to the camera. Rice makes shows no apparent concern for her well-being.

Those of us with any experience with domestic violence could easily surmise what had taken place inside the elevator. But the men of the NFL somehow assumed (or wanted to believe) that Palmer had viciously attacked Rice, and that he had only defended himself by knocking her unconscious!

On March 27 Rice was indicted for aggravated assault, and the next day the couple married. Did Rice marry her to shut her up? Rice ended up getting a slap on the wrist from Prosecutor James McClain (who, like Rice graduated from Rutgers). Rice was allowed to enter a one-year diversion program with counseling instead of getting jail time. And btw, McClain is still defending his decision.

On May 23, Ray Rice game a non-apology “apology” for his disgusting actions in which he apologized to everyone under the sun except his wife Janay. Rice acted as if the two were equally responsible for “the incident.”

From SB Nation, May 23: Ray Rice is an asshole and the Ravens couldn’t care less.

Ray Rice is sorry. He wants you to know how sorry he is for knocking out his fiancée Janay, who is now his wife. He would like to sincerely apologize for dragging her out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator. We know this because Rice told us so. He told the world in a televised public apology broadcast Friday afternoon from Baltimore.

“I apologize for the situation my wife and I were in,” the Baltimore Ravens running back said….

Rice’s apology is special because he really believes it; a shocking portion of Rice’s press conference was devoted to Successories-style affirmations about how he will recover from and get past this … situation that … occurred. Stranger still, Rice somehow managed to get his wife Janay — whom he married right before he was supposed to go to trial for a more serious version of domestic assault — to accept an equal share of blame for the incident. She apologized, too.

Those of us familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence know that Palmer’s behavior was typical of victims–blaming themselves and trying to protect their emotional and economic security.

Finally, in July NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games. NFL and Ravens officials implied to journalists that there was some kind of mitigating evidence that showed Palmer to be at fault. Public outrage was immediate.  I recall JJ posting about it at that time. On Aug. 28, realizing he had made a terrible public relations blunder, Goodell announced a new NFL policy on “domestic violence.” 

Finally, on Sept. 8, TMZ released video of what actually transpired inside the elevator: Rice spitting in Palmer’s face, and decking her with a “crushing” left hook. Not long afterward, the Ravens and the NFL finally too action, claiming they had never seen this video footage that they could have gotten easily from the casino or law enforcement.

But guess what? Rice will still receive $25 million from his contract with the Ravens. If Roger Goodell keeps his job after this, the NFL will be permanently damaged. After all, half of the people who follow football are women? Why do you think the NFL make their players wear pink (ugh!) once a year in honor of breast cancer awareness?

The Red Madras Headdress, Henri Matisse

The Red Madras Headdress, Henri Matisse

Here are some links to other stories on this horrible and shameful debacle:

Dan Shaughnessy at The Boston Globe: In Ray Rice case, one failure after another.

Mike Wise at The Washington Post: Ray Rice finally must answer for his actions; when will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Baltimore Sun: Janay Rice breaks her silence, describes situation as ‘horrible nightmare’ (She blames the media, not her husband).

SB Nation: White House on Ray Rice: ‘Hitting a woman is not something a real man does’.

TMZ: NFL Commish in the Dark by Choice?

President Obama to Lay out Case for Stepping Up Campaign Against Islamic State

From The Washington Post, As Obama Makes Case, Congress Is Divided on Campaign Against Militants.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday will begin laying out his case for an expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when he faces congressional leaders who are averse to taking an election-year stand but are being pushed by lawmakers who want a say in matters of war.

Mr. Obama’s meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders on Tuesday in the Oval Office will be the first of several between White House officials and lawmakers as the administration tries to persuade Congress to embrace the president’s plan to halt the momentum of the Sunni militant group known as ISIS.

A year after opposition in Congress thwarted plans for missile strikes in Syria, the White House is again putting the issue of military force in the Middle East before a skeptical Congress and a war-weary public.

But what about Congress?

Democratic leaders in the Senate and Republican leaders in the House want to avoid a public vote to authorize force, fearing the unknown political consequences eight weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 4.

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Other lawmakers, especially some Democrats, are arguing that as long as the president keeps the operation limited to airstrikes, he does not need to get congressional approval.

Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC: The Politics of ISIS

Ahead of a Wednesday public address from President Obama where he’s set to lay out a “game plan” for military action in Iraq and as the right mocks Democrats as weak-willed appeasers, former Vice President Dick Cheney is heading to Capitol Hill to deliver a pep talk to House Republicans.

Is it the 2002 election all over again? Not exactly. But the escalating conflict against ISIS is starting to show up on the trail as Republican candidates seem eager to put major past differences on foreign policy aside and join together in criticizing the White House’s response to the Islamic State.

A number of candidates and GOP officials have gone out of their way to attack Obama over his remark at a press conference that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting ISIS. Republican Senate nominees including Scott Brown in New Hampshire, David Perdue in Georgia, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, among others, have highlighted the quote while demanding action to turn back the Islamist group’s gains. Joni Ernst in Iowa and Tom Cotton in Arkansas, both of whom served in the Middle East during the Iraq War, have also called for a clearer plan to tackle ISIS.

Read the rest at the link.

Odalique with a Turkish Chair, Henri Matisse

Odalique with a Turkish Chair, Henri Matisse

Ferguson Updates

St. Louis Business Journal: Ferguson to reform municipal courts, add police review board.

As national attention mounts on the way St. Louis municipalities use court fine revenuefor city operations and on police use of force in the area, the Ferguson City Council has announced the proposal of three major reforms.

The city will hold ward meetings for public input on the reforms, with some of the proposals on the agenda for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Greater Grace Church, 3690 Pershall Road.

Here’s the breakdown of the proposed reforms:

  1. Establishing a Citizen Review Board to work with the police department to review their actions.
  2. I ntroducing an ordinance that will keep court fine revenues at or below 15 percent of Ferguson’s revenue. Any excess will be earmarked for special community projects, not general revenue.
  3. Reforming the way Ferguson’s municipal court works by repealing the “failure to appear” offense, abolishing some administrative fees which may impact low-income persons to a greater extent and the creation of a special docket for defendants having trouble making monthly payments.

Likewise, the council announced, the municipal judge has called for a warrant recall to run from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Those who have outstanding warrants are encouraged to call the municipal court cler k for information on the recall.

Woman in a Purple Coat, Henri Matisse (1937)

Woman in a Purple Coat, Henri Matisse (1937)

Truthout: St. Louis Police Shot 16 Before Michael Brown in 2014

By the time of Michael Brown’s murder, St. Louis area police had already shot at least 16 people in 2014, the vast majority of whom were black.

Truthout obtained this figure by examining news reports from January 1 to August 6 of 2014. On August 10, protests opposing the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown began.

Read the list of victims at the link.

In the vast majority of incidents where the race of an individual shot by police was known, the individuals were black. Truthout was not able to determine how many (if any) of these police shootings were “justified” because data concerning police shootings is so limited.

Police shootings, along with other uses of force by the St. Louis area police, are not a new development. In Ferguson, seven active or former officers have now been named in civil lawsuits for excessive use of force; and in March 2014, two officers with the St. Louis Police Department severely beat a man with disabilities. In another recentcivil case, an amount of over $800,000 was awarded to a victim of excessive force by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Force.

In 2012, US District Judge Carol Jackson stated that the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners may be “deliberately indifferent” or even tacitly approving of a “widespread persistent pattern of unconstitutional conduct.” In a separate 2010 federal civil lawsuit, which accused the St. Louis police of excessive force, the victim’s lawyer cited statistics showing that the St. Louis internal affairs investigators sustained only one of 322 citizens’ physical abuse complaints against police from 1997 to 2002.

Read the rest at Truthout. It’s a good article.

Matthew Keys at The Blot: Ferguson Police Chief Lied About Michael Brown Surveillance Tape.

The chief of police for the Ferguson Police Department misled members of the media and the public when he asserted that his hand was forced in releasing surveillance footage that purported to show 18-year-old resident Michael Brown engaged in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store minutes before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

Chief Thomas Jackson distributed copies of the surveillance tape at a press conference on Aug. 15 in tandem with the public release of the identity of the officer who was responsible for shooting Brown.

When questioned by members of the press about the tape — which apparently had nothing to do with the fatal shooting of the unarmed teenager — Jackson told reporters that he was legally obligated to release the tape because members of the media had submitted an open records requests for it.

“We’ve had this tape for a while, and we had to diligently review the information that was in the tape, determine if there was any other reason to keep it,” Jackson said at the press event. “We got a lot of Freedom of Information requests for this tape, and at some point it was just determined we had to release it. We didn’t have good cause, any other reason not to release it under FOI.”

Except there were no specific FOIA requests for the tape. Keys and The Blot got all media requests for information through an open records request. Read all about it at the Blot.

Dance "What hope might look like" -- Henri Mattisse

Dance “What hope might look like” — Henri Mattisse

Shootdown of Malaysia Flight 17 in Ukraine

From the LA Times: Dutch report: Malaysia jet downed in Ukraine by ‘high-energy objects’

A preliminary report on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 appears to confirm initial assertions that the passenger plane was hit by a surface-to-air-missile in mid-flight July 17 before crashing in Ukraine.

“The pattern of damage observed on the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft appears to indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft,” concluded a report issued Tuesday by the Netherlands’ air safety board.

The Boeing 777, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, was flying at about 33,000 feet over separatist-held territory in southeastern Ukraine when it broke apart in midair and crashed, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board.

The report says that fragments of the aircraft reveal numerous puncture holes and indentations on the plane’s skin that would be consistent with damage from missile shrapnel and, investigators say, rule out pilot error or any mechanical fault as the cause of the disaster.

Although investigators have not been able to recover these pieces for forensic examination, the report states that “the pattern of damage observed … was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems.”

I’ll end there, as this post is far too long already. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and links in the comment thread. 


Lazy Saturday Reads

Dans la Prairie, Claude Monet

Dans la Prairie, Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

I’m going to begin with some light-hearted stories from the NATO Summit. I really liked this one from BBC News, When the Nato summit came to south Wales. After all the ugly attacks on President Obama from both Republicans and Democrats here in the U.S., I was pleasantly surprised to see the warm welcome he received in South Wales. Check it out. There are some nice photos and tweets. I especially liked the expression on Obama’s face while he interacted with some schoolchildren (see below).

From the article:

It takes something pretty unique for the word “Newport” to be trending in Cardiff on Twitter.

But the city had arrived when its larger neighbour was talking about it. The world of social media woke up early for the Nato summit.

The summit certainly kept Twitter busy and it might explain – apart from the 9,500 police officers, road blocks and security fencing – why the streets of the capital were generally quiet and people were staying at home, online.

Obama wales

In Newport itself, the sight of armoured vehicles being displayed on the Celtic Manor golf course was a popular shared photo. Just think of the score if Europe had these in the Ryder Cup?

It was a demonstration of the high skills of the south Wales workforce who manufacture them, but the skills of those with Photoshop was also in evidence.

The summit also brought some unusual sights on the streets – and in the air – with Cardiff in particular not used to such a security operation. And there were also some special moments, not least for pupils at a primary school in Newport.

From the Boston Globe, some video of President Obama strolling through Stonehenge, looking awestruck.

After wrestling with threats ranging from Russia to Islamist insurgency in the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama took a break from a NATO summit to visit Britain’s prehistoric Stonehenge monument on Friday. “How cool is this?” Obama said as he wandered starry-eyed in his shirt sleeves among the towering stone megaliths.

Silly me, I like having a President who says things like “How cool is this?” Here’s a great shot of him among the standing stones, from NBC News.

Obama stonehenge2

 

And from The Daily Mail, ‘We should have invited him back for coffee': Family-of-five tell of shock meeting with President Obama during trip to Stonehenge following NATO summit.

A mother has told of her shock after her family-of-five had a chat with President Obama during a trip to Stonehenge – but that she now wishes she had invited him back for coffee.

Inspired by rumours that the President’s helicopter had landed at the ancient site, Janice Raffle and her husband James marched across fields with their three sons in the hope they would catch a glimpse of the US President.

At first the family, who live a mile from the monument, were stuck at a fence. But a good-natured Obama wandered over to where they were standing – and even agreed to pose for a family photo.

Mrs Raffle, 35, who was with her three sons, aged two, six and seven, told Sky News: ‘He waved at us first after my husband marched us all the way there on the chance we might get to see him.

‘We kind of edged closer and closer until he noticed us and waved. We waved back and then one of the high security men edged us forward and he was moving forward at the same time, which was very exciting.

‘The first person to say something was actually James. He said “Welcome to England”.

Lots of photos at the Daily Mail link.

Adolphe Monet Reading in the Garden, Claude Monet

Adolphe Monet Reading in the Garden, Claude Monet

Getting back to potential WWIII news, The Washington Post reported last night: Ukraine cease-fire begins, amid doubts that it will last.

Ukraine’s increasingly bloody conflict went on hold Friday, after the government and pro-Russian rebels signed a cease-fire deal that at least temporarily solidified the insurgents’ territorial gains.

The agreement, made with the Kremlin’s endorsement, appeared to be a first step toward the type of dormant conflict that Russia has exploited to exert control over former satellites in the decades since the Soviet Union’s collapse, including thwarting their chances of joining the NATO defense alliance.

With rebels making swift gains across eastern Ukraine this week, and preparing to seize the key industrial port city of Mariupol, it seemed that Ukrainian authorities felt they had little choice but to push for a halt to hostilities. The rebels turned the tide of battle early last week after receiving heavy backing from Russian ­forces, Kiev and its Western allies say. The Kremlin denies aiding the rebels.

The cease-fire deal was made as leaders of NATO countries gathered in Wales this week for discussions focused on the conflict. The terms of the deal underscored Russia’s apparent willingness to commit far more resources than the West to achieve its aims in Ukraine. Kiev has asked for Western military aid, but relatively little has been forthcoming, in part because of Western caution about getting pulled into a proxy military conflict with Russia inside a non-NATO-member nation.

A Woman Reading, Claude Monet

A Woman Reading, Claude Monet

This one is disturbing from The Daily Beast, Russia Steps Up Pressure on the Baltics.

An officer from the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), “was abducted at gunpoint at Luhamaa border checkpoint this morning” and “taken to Russia,” according to an Estonian government statement.

The incident comes at an extremely delicate moment, just as the United States and NATO try to convince the front-line members of the Alliance that have solid protection from Russian territorial ambitions. The sleight-of-hand invasion of non-NATO Ukraine over the last several months has raised fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will claim in the Baltic States, just as he claimed in Crimea and the Donbass region, that the large Russian-speaking population needs to be protected, separated and inevitably annexed to a reconstituted Russian Empire.

The Estonian statement implied the alleged abduction is an intentional slap in the face to the Americans. “The incident comes two days after a visit to Estonia by U.S. President Barack Obama and in the middle of NATO’s summit in Wales,” it said. Apparently there have been “airspace violations” reported as well, including over Finland, which is not a member of the Alliance.

The whereabouts of the officer remain unknown, the Estonians did not name him and what he was doing at the border, precisely, has not been specified except to say he was performing his official functions. The ISS is Estonia’s national agency for counterintelligence and high-profile corruption investigations.

What is Putin playing at? It takes some gall to abuct a government official from a NATO country on the heels of the NATO Summit.

Monet Reading, August Renoir

Monet Reading, August Renoir

The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz on Governor Vaginal Probe, For Bob McDonnell, a Miscalculation at the Scene of a Blunder.

On Aug. 15, 2013, Bob McDonnell visited the site of one of Virginia’s great tactical blunders.

As part of his final official tour of the state as its governor, Mr. McDonnell went to Ball’s Bluff State Park in Leesburg, where more than 150 years ago a Union army scout crossed the Potomac River and mistook a row of trees for an unguarded Confederate camp. The next morning, Union soldiers approached the trunks and branches and soon found themselves surrounded by well-armed Mississippi infantrymen. By the end of the skirmish, Confederate soldiers had killed nearly half of the Union troops, many of them pushed off the bluff and into the Potomac.

Even by the time of his visit, Mr. McDonnell seemed likely to enter the state’s history books for his own bad judgment — accepting extravagant gifts and generous loans from a Richmond businessman seeking favor from the governor’s office. On Thursday, the ink dried when a federal jury found him guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

At Ball’s Bluff last year, Mr. McDonnell announced $2.2 million in grants for battlefield preservation. As he sat in sunglasses on a white folding chair, James Lighthizer, the president of the Civil War Trust, said that ultimately Mr. McDonnell would be most remembered for conserving Civil War battlefields. “He has done more for battlefield preservation than any other governor in the United States of America,” Mr. Lighthizer said.

It looks like Lighthizer was wrong. McDonnell will most likely be remembered–if at all–as the first VA governor to be a convicted felon and for throwing his wife under the bus to try to save himself.

And from Chris Cillizza, a nomination for “the best front page on the Bob McDonnell verdict.” See it at the link. I wasn’t able to copy the photo.

A couple more good articles on McDonnell:

From The Daily Beast, The Religious Right’s ‘Nice Guy’ Who Threw His Wife Under the Bus.

When Bob McDonnell burst onto the national scene in 2009, he was everything the Republican Party needed—a good-looking family man who stopped the Obama juggernaut in its tracks in the swing state of Virginia just 12 months after the party’s McCain humiliation of 2008.

A family-values social conservative (he got his JD from Regent University), McDonnell cleverly wooed Commonwealth voters with his corn-dog “Bob’s for Jobs” campaign slogan and a heavy dose of what appeared to be the TV-perfect brood: five gorgeous kids, including a daughter who served in the military in Iraq, and a devoted, smiling wife who had once been a Washington Redskins cheerleader.

McDonnell’s family was emblazoned on his campaign bus and commercials. At the inaugural ball after he won the governor’s race, the McDonnells slow-danced to “Looks Like We Made It.” McDonnell had even written his master’s thesis on the breakdown of the American family and ways the Republican Party could build it back up. “As the family goes, so goes the nation,” he wrote.

Underlying the entire McDonnell package in 2009 was a known truth about the governor among political operatives who knew him and believed in him—that unlike the divas and the bullies and the egomaniacs who litter both political parties today, Bob McDonnell was just a good guy. Staff called him “Mr. Honest.” Republicans in Washington called him “the Boy Scout.”

Hilarious! I wonder if any of these religious right nuts believe the crap they try to sell to voters?  love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning.

Schadenfreude

And from Rob Boston at Talk to Action, Fall From Grace: What The Religious Right Should Learn From The McDonnell Scandal.

Leaders of Religious Right groups are fond of telling us that if we elect more fundamentalist Christians to office, we’ll have less corruption. Biblical literalists must be more ethical, right?

That claim is looking a little thin in light of recent events in Virginia. Yesterday, Robert F. McDonnell, the state’s former governor, was found guilty on 11 counts related to public corruption, conspiracy and bribery. His wife, Maureen, whom this “family values” politican tried willingly to throw under the bus, was found guilty on nine charges….

Here’s how McDonnell tried to institute “godly rule” in Virginia:

When state officials decided that police chaplains should use non-sectarian prayers at public events, McDonnell rescinded the order. McDonnell’s obsession with blocking access to legal abortion earned him the nickname “Gov. Ultrasound.”  He drew up new rules allowing tax-funded “faith-based” adoption agencies to deny services to anyone who failed to meet a strict theological litmus test. He signed a law mandating that public colleges in Virginia give funding to student groups even if they discriminate on religious grounds. McDonnell appointed a private school voucher advocate as education secretary and shifted funding for sex education from comprehensive programs to “abstinence-only” approaches that critics say are often anchored in religion.

McDonnell also pushed for a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage (which was later approved by the voters) and even appeared on Robertson’s “700 Club” to lobby for it. McDonnell told a beaming Robertson, “From the Garden of Eden to 2006, we’ve believed that marriage is between a man and a woman. But because of some social trends out there and some court decisions, Pat, as you know, marriage is under attack.”

Based on the religious right’s record of choosing “sinful” candidates like Newt Gingrich, David Vitter and their worship of “divisive extremists like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bryan Fischer, Tony Perkins, Ben Carson, Sean Hannity” and their embrace of grifters like Ralph Reed and Dinesh D’Souza, Boston writes:

I’d recommend they start by consulting their own holy book – you know, the one they’re always happy to bash us with. Specifically, they should examine the 7th chapter of the Book of Matthew and the words of Jesus: “Why do you look at the speck of dust that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?…You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

But the religious right really doesn’t pay much attention to the New Testament. They seem to prefer the angry fire and brimstone god of pre-Jesus days.

Extremely rare white lobsters

Extremely rare white lobsters

A few more links you might find interesting:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Court rules against Wisconsin’s, Indiana’s gay marriage bans.

The New York Daily News, Exclusive: Ex-Prez’ daughter Jenna Bush Hager mistakenly registered with NY’s Independence Party  (Breaking: neither of Dubya’s daughters is a Republican.)

The Guardian, Monet landscape found in late German collector’s suitcase. (Stolen by the Nazis?)

Oregon Live.com, Oregon wolf OR-7: Lab tests show mate wandered far to find him (a touching love story, with photos).

Two tales of albino animals, both from Boston.com:

Captured albino cobra taken to Los Angeles Zoo.

Extremely Rare White Lobsters Found Off Maine Coast.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!