Today is the last day of 2013. Tonight at midnight, we’ll bid adieu to another year. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this one go.
There will be lots of celebratory fireworks in cities around to world tonight; the revelry has already begun in New Zealand. USA Today:
New Zealand rang in the New Year with multicolored fireworks erupting from Auckland’s Sky Tower at midnight Tuesday as thousands of cheering revelers danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation’s largest city.
Early pyrotechnic shows erupted over Sydney Harbor, dazzling hundreds of thousands viewers ahead of the main event in Australia and Dubai will later try to create the world’s largest fireworks show to ring in 2014.
Unfortunately we’ve also seen some scarier explosions in the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon there was another accident in North Dakota involving the transport of crude oil. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Cassleton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion. So far the evacuations are still voluntary and only about 65% of the 2,400 residents of Cassleton have left their homes.
The explosion happened shortly after 2 p.m. Monday after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train near Casselton, which is 20 miles west of Fargo, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames. No one was injured in the crash….
In the initial hours after the explosion, authorities told residents to stay indoors to avoid the smoke. Later, when residents were urged to evacuate, some drove to Fargo, where a shelter had been set up for them.
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks. BNSF said both trains had more than 100 cars each….
“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.
The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.
The derailment happened amid heightened concerns about the United States’ increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last summer’s crash in Quebec of a train carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.
The explosions Monday afternoon sent flames and black smoke skyward outside of Casselton, about 40 kilometres west of Fargo. Investigators couldn’t get close to the blaze and official estimates of how many train cars caught fire varied….
Ryan Toop, who lives less than a kilometre away, said he heard explosions and drove as close as about two city blocks to the fire, which erupted on a day when temperatures were below zero.
“I rolled down the window, and you could literally keep your hands warm,” Toop said.
The tracks that the train was on pass through the middle of Casselton, and Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tara Morris said it was “a blessing it didn’t happen within the city.”
No kidding. I’d say that’s a pretty big understatement. Here’s some raw video of the explosion.
In Russia, there are fears that two suicide bombings on Sunday and Monday signal “that a terrorist campaign may have begun that could stretch into the Winter Olympics.” AP via ABC News:
In the wake of Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station and Monday’s blast on a trolleybus, police reinforcements and Interior Ministry troops have been sent into the city, regional police official Andrei Pilipchuk was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. He said more than 5,200 security forces are deployed in the city of 1 million.
The Health Ministry said three more victims died on Tuesday, raising the toll to 34 — 18 from the station bombing and 16 from the bus. Officials said 65 other people were hospitalized with injuries.
Volgograd authorities have canceled mass events for New Year’s Eve, one of Russia’s most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. In Moscow, festivities were to go ahead but authorities said security would be increased.
There has been no claim of responsibility for either bombing, but they came only months after the leader of an Islamic insurgency in southern Russia threatened new attacks on civilian targets in the country, including on the Winter Games that are to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi.
After their enthusiastic defense of the racism, sexism, pedophilia, and homophobia of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Roberts, you’d think right-wingers would hesitate to attack a mild commentary involving race on MSNBC, but you’d be wrong.
MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and the panelists on her Sunday morning show drew criticism Monday for poking fun at a Romney family photo that included their adopted African-American grandson, Kieran Romney.
Harris-Perry had the panelists attempt to caption a Romney family photo, which included all of Mitt Romney’s grandchildren.
Harris-Perry joked that Kieran Romney would marry Kanye West’s daughter, North West.
“Could you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she asked.
Panelist and comedian Dean Obeidallah said the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican party.” And actress Pia Glenn started singing “one of these things is not like the other.”
Steve Benen took a look back at the Sunday political talk shows to see what proportion of the guests were from the Democratic and Republican parties. We knew this already, but it’s stunning to see it in a graphic.
The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “This Week,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday,” hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?
The…chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year, with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats. For 2013, the race wasn’t especially close – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) easily came out on top, making 27 appearances this year. That works out to an average of one appearance every 1.9 weeks (or 2.25 Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year).
Incredible, isn’t it? Newt Gingrich doesn’t even hold any office and, as Benen points out, “hasn’t served in public office since resigning in disgrace 15 years ago” was in third place in front of Dick Durbin, the supposedly powerful Senate Majority Whip.
According to Mike Konczal of The New Republic, 2013 Was a Bad Year for Wall St. Lobbyists.
Last year, nobody thought that banks would face tougher holding requirements for capital, that regulations of the financial derivatives markets would advance, or that the final Volcker would be a pretty good start instead of an incoherent mess. Yet that is what appears to have happened in 2013. So what caused it? And how it might apply to future political goals?
The successes of 2013 were partially driven by the failures of Wall Street in 2012. The multi-billion dollar trading losses from JPMorgan Chase known as the “London Whale” changed the dynamics for financial reform in a way that took a year to realize. JPMorgan had been leading the charge against reform, arguing that the effort was over-harsh and destructive, and that Wall Street had already cleaned up its act on its own. Indeed, the big concern in 2012 was that Wall Street would convince enough moderate Democrats that Dodd-Frank had gone too far in certain respects, and that Congress would stop regulatory action before it was even completed. This fell apart right alongside the multi-billion dollar losses in JPMorgan’s position. Though various bills to remove parts of Dodd-Frank would pass the House by Republican votes, these efforts failed to generate moderate Democratic votes in the Senate after the Whale trade became public.
Read the rest at the link.
Hey did you know that dolphins like to get high? Read about it at The Independent: Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.
In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.
Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.
Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.
The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer.
Hey, why is that surprising? Lots of animals probably enjoy altered states of consciousness. Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? What about a big cat?
Finally, I highly recommend these two posts on the NSF/Snowden story by NSFWCORP writers now publishing at Pando Daily, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine respectively.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread.
I hope 2014 will be a great year for all of you!!
Happy Mother’s Day!
For this second half of our Sunday Reads, let’s take a look a variety of topics sandwiched between a couple of items about “Mutha’s Day.”
Years after she founded Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis was dining at the Tea Room at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia. She saw they were offering a “Mother’s Day Salad.” She ordered the salad and when it was served, she stood up, dumped it on the floor, left the money to pay for it, and walked out in a huff. Jarvis had lost control of the holiday she helped create, and she was crushed by her belief that commercialism was destroying Mother’s Day.
Here is a little history of Anna Jarvis and Mother’s Day, in cartoon format, by Steve Brodner. Click on the cartoon to view larger image.
Makes that “Mother’s Day Salad” protest in the Tea Room at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia all the more symbolic doesn’t it?
In a story that you may have missed last week: University of Montana agrees to reform handling of rape cases | Reuters
The University of Montana has agreed to reform how it responds to rape accusations following a year-long investigation by two U.S. government agencies into complaints such cases were mishandled, federal authorities and the school said on Thursday.
The U.S. departments of justice and education had probed allegations the university failed to aggressively pursue sexual assault and harassment reports, several of which involved football players.
The inquiries stemmed from reports that women on campus had been subjected to unfair treatment that infringed on their civil rights and violated constitutional bans on gender-based discrimination.
“What is noteworthy about this announcement today is not the problems our investigation found at the university, but a shared commitment to the equality of women students and their safety,” Roy Austin, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement.
Jocelyn Samuels, the division’s principal deputy assistant attorney general, told a news conference that the set of agreements would provide a blueprint for reform for other campuses across the country as they address the “all too common problem of sexual assault and harassment of students.”
Blueprint? I should hope so. But after all this is 2013 and we are talking blueprints when it comes to the “all too common problem of sexual assault and harassment of students.” Seriously? It seems like bullshit to me when the day before this story was published on Reuters, the State Department was dealing with the actual “Blueprints” to make 3-D printed guns.
The State Department on Thursday ordered the nonprofit Defense Distributed to remove blueprints for the world’s first 3D-printed gun from its website.
“All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers,” Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson told Forbes.
The department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance warned Wilson that posting the materials online could be a violation of export controls. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) prohibits weapons manufactures from exporting technical data to foreign persons without authorization from the State Department.
“This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately,” the Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance said.
The warning from the State Department came just days after Defense Distributed unveiled the blueprints for its plastic single-shot handgun, called the “Liberator.” The firearm can be created by anyone with the blueprints and access to a 3D printer. Defense Distributed also released nine other 3D-printable firearms components.
Well….I think I made my point.
Moving on now to this, Can You Generate Electricity From Plants? Science Says Yes | Geekosystem
Plants use energy from the Sun through photosynthesis, and humans use energy from the Sun through things like solar panels. A new technique created by researchers at the University of Georgia allows humans to get electricity from plants by hijacking the photosynthesis process. This research could someday lead to some very literal power plants.
Cool innit? Go to the link to check it out.
A few weeks ago, we lost a comic genius…Jonathan Winters. I have two articles written by Dick Cavett in the New York Times. Take a few minutes to read them when you can.
No more Jonathan Winters.
What did we do to deserve this?
I’m just antique enough to remember when Jonathan first hit. Or at least for me. It was the Jack Paar “Tonight Show” and no one had ever seen anything remotely like it.
A slightly chubby, amiable, Midwesternly looking man who could have been an accountant or a bus driver, nicely dressed in dark suit and tie, stepped out, a bit timorously, from behind the curtain and, on the spot and before our eyes, created a whole mad little world.
I remember once mentioning the name Jonathan Winters to Groucho Marx.
The reply: “There’s a giant talent.”
Now for some history links, this first one is more about something that is history in the making actually. First black woman named to Ga. Civil War Commission
The first black woman has been appointed to serve on Georgia’s Civil War Commission.
House Speaker David Ralston on Friday selected Inger Eberhart for the post.
The Acworth resident currently serves on the staff of Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. She is on the board of advisers of the Dustin Inman Society, which advocates for stricter enforcement of state and federal laws related to immigration.
Oh…that explains it.
Anyway, more history goodies, in link dump fashion:
Held a virtual prisoner by the Bolsheviks months before his execution, Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II pasted informal snapshots of his family into an album which has now come to light in a Russian provincial museum.
The photographs, most of which have never been seen before, show the last of the Romanov rulers of Russia without pomp and in unguarded moments. Many were taken by Nicholas II himself.
There are many informal photos…with penciled names and dates written on the backs.
World View: After the Great War, Britain and France carved up the Middle East between them. Now, plans for Syria have the same potential for disaster.
The “Great East Coast Cicada Sex Invasion of 2013” is upon us.
After 17 years of feeding and living under the earth’s surface, billions of “Brood II” cicadas will emerge this summer between Connecticut and Georgia, swarming in thick, forbidding billows of shed exoskeletons and raucous insect lovemaking. (To get an idea of what the cicada mating call sounds like, click here for audio.)
For all their physical creepiness and loud public sex orgies, the (actually completely harmless) bugs have a rich cultural history in the United States. Bob Dylan wrote a song about the cicadas, for instance. But cicadas also have a rich political history in this country. Here are their greatest hits…
The 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies begins this Thursday on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I’m moderating a legal history panel on Thursday at 1:30, in Bernhard 106, called Law as Culture: Secular Punishment and Divine Retribution in Medieval Ireland (Panel 90). Here are the paper titles:
- Beheading, Hanging, and Being Drawn Asunder: Execution in Medieval Ireland
- Property Incursions and Punitive Irish Saints
- Divine Diversion: Divine Retribution as Dispute Resolution and the Norman Invasion of Ireland
H/T to Delphyne for this one: The Medieval and Early Modern Meme Menagerie, or, Grumpy Cat is a Time Lord
I think we’ve finally found a proper Late Medieval or Early Modern Grumpy Cat.
…And, yes, Grumpy Cat is a Time Lord.
I actually love the expression on this little guy….
2. Maxwell, Disapproving Rabbit:
Even before someone discovered the “disapproval face,” Disapproving Rabbit was already fed up with your shit.
Oh, that is sooooooo true!
On to Movie news…
This next link is here because of two things… first, the movie that is mentioned is about Shanghai Kate, the woman who did two of my tattoos back in 1999 and 2000 in NYC. And second, it makes me think of when movies started to use video tape, we had VCRs and Blockbusters. Then it went to DVDs and we had NetFlix and RedBox. Now it is Digital, we still have NetFlix but more and more companies are getting into the groove. Eventually we won’t have anything real to touch or feel…it will all be digital. And that kind of sucks. Los Angeles startup Yekra nets $3M for its digital movie distribution platform
Disney is doing it again: Merida From ‘Brave’ Gets An Unnecessary Makeover, Sparks Change.org Petition (PHOTO)
Merida, “Brave’s” red-headed heroine will be crowned Disney’s 11th princess on May 11. And just in time for her royal induction, the animated character has received a head-to-toe makeover — she’s thinner, her eyes are wider and … Is that miracle anti-frizz solution she’s using? What is going on!?
New Merida, left. Original Merida, right.
Last night, my kids went to see The Great Gatsby with a bunch of their friends. When they came back home after the show, I asked my daughter what she thought of the movie…this was her response.
It was okay, but there was like…no story to it?
Well, that about says it all, doesn’t it.
She laughed and said that when they first walked into the theater there was nothing but “old people” there, and she and her friends were worried that they may have made a mistake by going to see the movie in the first place.
“As I watched the trailer, I thought, ‘This is for 16-year-olds,’ ” she says. “All of this is about gearing this toward high school and college students who may not have any notion of who Fitzgerald was or what the book actually was.
“They’re not going to care too much about whether this is a well-done adaptation,” she adds. “They’re going to care about whether it’s a Hollywood blockbuster.”
Read the article I linked to, that quote is the last two sentences of the piece, but it fit so well with what my daughter said that I had to put it in here. She also said the music sucked, and my son said the entire thing was crap…well, except for the film quality. He said it was a very “crisp” film.
I really do think there are some books that should not be made into film. My favorite, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, is a perfect example. There is just some things that are too detailed and involved to be parsed down into a 2 hour flick.
Well, I have one more Gatsby link for you, a solemn one. The Great Gatsby: F Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are read by millions, but he was buried in near anonymity
The bard of the Jazz Age shouldn’t be buried here. On a hillside in Hollywood perhaps, where he spent his last, unhappy years, or in glamorous downtown Manhattan – or even in Père Lachaise in Paris, the last resting place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, among other foreigners who sought inspiration or refuge in the City of Light. But not in the commercial suburbs of Washington DC, among office blocks and strip malls, in a cemetery wedged between a six-lane highway and a railway line.
That, though, is where you find the grave of F Scott Fitzgerald, at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland, an Exxon station visible from the spot where he lies. In the pre-car age Rockville must have been a small village in the countryside; the church itself dates from 1817, when America was barely 40 years old. Today, however, it is Anywhere, USA.
Boston Boomer linked to Ginsburg’s comments on Roe v Wade yesterday, oh-oh is right….I thought it should be put on the front page: Justice Ginsburg: Roe v. Wade not ‘woman-centered’ – chicagotribune.com
It’s easy to take the job description of motherhood for granted: Take care of your kids, in whatever way you can. The specifics, though, are a little trickier.
In fact, the meaning and duties of being a mom have undergone great upheaval just in the last century. Should moms work outside the home or stay with the kids full time? Does letting a baby cry scar it or strengthen it? Should moms be praised just for being moms?
The answers to these questions depend on the era in which they’re asked. Throughout U.S. history, moms have been exalted, demonized and exalted again. Their instincts have been questioned and ruled sacrosanct. And they’ve taken the most guilt upon themselves during periods where they spend the most time with their children.
Read on for five ways motherhood has changed in the United States.
So Happy Mother’s Day to you, and for everyone else…enjoy the rest of your Sunday!
Real Quick Like….
That one just tickles me…
The next two cartoons should get a laugh outta Connie:
I don’t know, so much shit comes out of both ends of the GOP elephant, I can’t tell which end is which.
This is an open thread, have at it.
I have to take my daughter to her dentist appointment in Atlanta this afternoon, so I am writing this post early…way early! If any of these links I have to share with you are repeats, sorry about that.
By now everyone has heard the shocking news out of Vatican City: Pope Benedict surprises world, steps down citing frailty
Pope Benedict surprised the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry, becoming the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages and leaving his aides “incredulous”.
The 85-year-old German-born Pope, hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months.
A Vatican spokesman said the Pope had not resigned because of “difficulties in the papacy” and the decision had been a surprise, indicating that even his closest aides were unaware that he was about to quit. The Pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, the spokesman said.
After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and social media sites, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
Fox News had this picture up with its article reporting Benedict’s resignation: Pope Benedict to become first pontiff in 600 years to resign
Innit cute? Almost like he is taking his hat off in a goodbye salute…its a much better image for this story than the picture that Fox News had up earlier this week on a story about traditional gender roles.
This afternoon, author Jessica Valenti hilariously pointed out that a Fox News column about traditional gender roles in marriage is accidentally accompanied by a photograph of two lesbian newly-weds exchanging a kiss.
The FoxNews.com column in question was written by Suzanne Venker, the niece of social conservative hero Phyllis Schlafly, and previous author of the roundly-panned column on how it’s all women’s fault that there is a “battle of the sexes.”
Venker’s latest column, titled “To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’” laments that in modern marriage, “men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what,” all because of “feminists” who preach a “new way” of thinking about gender. Men and women now believe they can do the same things “without ramifications,” she wrote:
“Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”
Knowing the author and subject of the column, it’s pretty much a given that the featured image is an unintentional (but, indeed, hilarious) inclusion:
Turns out, that’s a stock image of Alaskan same-sex couple Stephanie Figarelle and Lela McArthur, who were wed atop the Empire State Building early last year…
Fox eventually took the picture down and replaced it with the generic stick figure image you usually see on restroom doors:
Oh well, it was funny while it lasted.
Now a couple of weather stories…
You need to click the links to these next articles because they are a bit too involved to quote from.
It happened again.
A major storm hit the northeast U.S. and the U.S. global model lagged badly behind the predictions of the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) . Just as with Sandy.
For a century, schoolchildren have been taught that the massive ocean current known as the Gulf Stream carries warm water from the tropical Atlantic Ocean to northwestern Europe. As it arrives, the water heats the air above it. That air moves inland, making winter days in Europe milder than they are in the northeastern U.S.
It might be time to retire that tidy story.
This next article makes me think of the scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail…the one where the old lady is beating the cat against the wall…Do Not Try to Recreate This 16th-Century German Cat Bomb at Home
Illustration, cat and bird with rocket packs (University of Pennsylvania).Think you’re the first person to consider the offensive capabilities of cats and birds in a hypothetical war against zombies space invaders enemies of the Holy Roman Empire? Think again!
The Germans beat you to it by about 425 years, as proven by this painting, which BibliOdyssey found and The Appendix Journal posted to its Tumblr. The manuscript from which it was drawn was called “Feuer Buech,” which I’m guessing translates from the old German to English as “Fire Book.” It’s a “treatise on munitions and explosive devices, with many illustrations of the various devices and their uses.”
Well, I am not sure how they could get the cat to walk into the fortification on its own…it probably would need to get a little help from its friends:
Since we had a cat story, how about a dog story? According to the BBC: Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers
Dogs are more capable of understanding situations from a human’s point of view than has previously been recognised, according to researchers.
They found dogs were four times more likely to steal food they had been forbidden, when lights were turned off so humans in the room could not see.
This suggested the dogs were able to alter their behaviour when they knew their owners’ perspective had changed.
I wonder if a dog would alter their behavior because a human put a rocket backpack on it?*
The experiments had been trying to find whether dogs could adapt their behaviour in response to the changed circumstances of their human owners.
It wanted to see if dogs had a “flexible understanding” that could show they understood the viewpoint of a human.
*Note, my comment was snarky and not in the best of taste, but I needed to put some perspective on these stories. Animals have been used during wartime throughout history.
Check this out: 6 Insane Uses of Animals in Wartime (That Actually Worked) **
(**Uh, just a post script to my note….that link goes to a 2011 Cracked Magazine post, but they cite real articles and state true facts, go figure!)
Last story for you this afternoon, and it deals with a monster from the reptile world…no it is not another story about the Church, World’s largest crocodile dies in Philippines
February 11, 2013 Lolong, world’s largest saltwater crocodile in captivity, pictured in Bunawan, the Philippines, on September 21, 2011 Enlarge Lolong, a one-tonne, 6.17 metres crocodile believed to be the biggest to have ever been caught, is seen in a caged pen in the southern Philippine town of Bunawan, on September 21, 2011. Lolong has died, 17 months after the suspected man-eater was hunted down and put on display for tourists, according to his caretakers.
You may remember this beast from a story I shared with you a couple of years ago: Monster crocodile gets own park in Philippines
Philippine villagers examine the giant crocodile after its capture on September 4. A monster crocodile which is reputedly the world’s largest is the star attraction at its own nature park which opened in the Philippines this weekend, weeks after the beast’s capture.
That is one picture I haven’t forgotten, I am pretty sure you probably haven’t forgotten it either. Oooof!
This is an open thread…