Saturday Reads: Obama Talks to Rouhani, Pakistan and Kenyan Disasters, Republican Terrorism, and MorePosted: September 28, 2013
It’s a beautiful Fall day in New England, the Red Sox have taken the American League East with the best record in baseball after winning 97 games with one game left to play. On top of that, the Yankees are pitiful. The playoffs start next Friday. It just doesn’t get better than this.
There is quite a bit of news for a Saturday. First up, President Obama spoke on the telephone to Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani yesterday–the first time leaders of the U.S. and Iran have spoken directly since 1979. The AP reports:
The United States and Iran took a historic step toward ending more than three decades of estrangement on Friday when President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone and agreed to work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The 15-minute call capped a week of seismic shifts in the relationship that revolved around Rouhani’s participation in the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, U.S. and European diplomats hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.
The diplomatic warming began shortly after Rouhani’s election in June. But it is rooted in both presidents’ stated campaign desires — Obama in 2008 and Rouhani this year — to break through 34-year-old barriers and move toward diplomacy.
Iran is also seeking quick relief from blistering economic sanctions that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed on Tehran to punish it for refusing to scale back its nuclear activities. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but years of stonewalling inspections and secrecy about its activities have fueled fears it is seeking to build warheads.
Rouhani and Obama spoke while the Iranian president was in his car and headed to the airport to fly back to Tehran, with Obama at his desk in the Oval Office. Rouhani’s aides initially reached out to arrange the conversation, and the White House placed the call.
I’m not sure what it means to “work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon,”–do they want to calm suspicions or tamp down the nuclear efforts? But at least it’s a step in the right direction. The New York Times has more:
“Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program, told reporters at the White House after the 15-minute phone call. “It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region.”
A Twitter account in Mr. Rouhani’s name later stated, “In regards to nuclear issue, with political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter.” The account added that Mr. Rouhani had told Mr. Obama, “We’re hopeful about what we will see from” the United States and other major powers “in coming weeks and months.”
More detail about the call itself:
Mr. Obama placed the call from the Oval Office around 2:30 p.m., joined by aides and a translator.
He opened by congratulating Mr. Rouhani on his election in June and noted the history of mistrust between the two nations, but also what he called the constructive statements Mr. Rouhani had made during his stay in New York, according to the official. The bulk of the call focused on the nuclear dispute, and Mr. Obama repeated that he respected Iran’s right to develop civilian nuclear energy, but insisted on concessions to prevent development of weapons.
Mr. Obama also raised the cases of three Americans in Iran, one missing and two others detained. In a lighter moment, he apologized for New York traffic.
The call ended on a polite note, according to the official and Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account.
“Have a nice day,” Mr. Rouhani said in English.
“Thank you,” Mr. Obama replied, and then tried a Persian farewell. “Khodahafez.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that: U.S. Says Iran Hacked Navy Computers.
U.S. officials said Iran hacked unclassified Navy computers in recent weeks in an escalation of Iranian cyberintrusions targeting the U.S. military.
The allegations, coming as the Obama administration ramps up talks with Iran over its nuclear program, show the depth and complexity of long-standing tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The U.S. officials said the attacks were carried out by hackers working for Iran’s government or by a group acting with the approval of Iranian leaders.
The most recent incident came in the week starting Sept. 15, before a security upgrade, the officials said. Iranian officials didn’t respond to requests to comment.
The allegations would mark one of the most serious infiltrations of U.S. government computer systems by Iran. Previously, Iranian-backed infiltration and surveillance efforts have targeted U.S. banks and computer networks running energy companies, current and former U.S. officials have said.
I’m sure Glenn Greenwald will have a highly disapproving story about this in the Guardian today. Oh wait, he’s probably more outraged that the NSA was able to discover the Iranian spying . . . Never mind.
When Rouhani got home, he was “met by hardline protesters chanting ‘Death to America,’” according to BBC News.
Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport, with supporters hailing the trip and opponents throwing shoes.
An Agence France-Presse journalist said some 200-300 supporters gathered outside the airport to thank Mr Rouhani for his efforts.
But opposite them were about 60 people shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.
Mr Rouhani raised his hand to the crowds as he was driven off.
A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president’s convoy.
There was another powerful earthquake today in Pakistan, according to CNN.
The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Balochistan province Saturday about 96 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Awaran, the United States Geological Survey said.
Rasheed Baloch, the Deputy Commissioner Awaran told CNN seven people died when a house collapsed in Mashkay Tehsil as result of new earthquake on Saturday.
Just Tuesday, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the same area of Pakistan. The death toll in that quake has risen to 366 people and another 765 are injured….
Baloch said a rescue operation was under way in Awaran district to retrieve the dead bodies and shift the injured to hospitals.
The remoteness of the affected area and damaged communications networks are hindering the rescue operation, officials said.
The Atlantic has a good article following up on “Tragic and Heroic Stories from Survivors of the Kenyan Mall Attack.”
Witness accounts and survivor stories from the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi continue to emerge, telling a freighting [sic] story of violence and terror. Yet, as the investigation continues, there are still some disturbing questions about the attack that have yet to be fully explained.
Now that more access has been granted to the ruined mall, images confirm that three floors of the building collapsed, presumably because of a large explosion. The Associated Press reported today that the collapse was actually caused by the Kenyan military, supporting a claim made by the terrorists themselves. It’s still not clear how or why they managed to set off the explosion, but it may have killed some (perhaps most?) of the hostages still inside the building.
The official death toll is still listed at 67, but it’s likely that unrecovered bodies will be found in the rubble. As many as 60 people are still missing.
CNN is also reporting today that the terrorists did not just plant weapons inside the mall in the days before the attack, as had been previously reported, but that members of al-Shabab had rented out a storeand were actually running it as functional business for nearly a year.
While investigators, including the FBI, continue their work, we’re learning more about what happened inside the mall during the attack, and what those who lived through it endured.
Check out some of the survivor stories at The Atlantic link.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a shocking report yesterday, according to BBC News. IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming.
A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.
The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.
On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.
It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.
The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.
To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.
Too bad no humans in powerful positions are likely to do anything about it.
Back in the USA . . .
Congress is still battling over whether or not to crash the global economy because Republicans don’t want ordinary Americans to have health care, Ted Cruz is still getting headlines for making an ass of himself, and the media is still trying to blame Democrats and Republicans equally for the mess we’re in.
From the Washington Post: Obama chides Republicans as shutdown looms.
With Washington barreling toward a government shutdown, a deadlocked Congress entered the final weekend of the fiscal year with no clear ideas of how to avoid furloughs for more than 800,000 federal workers. Millions more could be left without paychecks.
The Senate on Friday approved a stopgap government funding bill and promptly departed, leaving all of the pressure to find a solution on House Republican leaders.
President Obama weighed in, sternly lecturing GOP leaders that the easiest path forward would be to approve the Senate’s bill, which includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s prized legislation achievement, which he signed into law in 2010. But a far-right bloc of House and Senate Republicans banded together to leave House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) virtually powerless to act.
“My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room.
Boehner’s leadership team offered no public comment and remained out of sight most of Friday, hunkering down for another weekend on the brink. For Boehner, this is the latest in a series of unstable moments that have become the hallmark of his three-year run as speaker.
Al Gore uncharacteristically joined the fray, according to The Hill. Gore to GOP: ‘How dare you?’
Former Vice President Al Gore accused Republicans Friday of engaging in “political terrorism” by using a government shutdown as leverage to defund ObamaCare.
“The only phrase that describes it is political terrorism,” Gore said at the Brookings Institution, according to ABC News. “Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?”
The former vice president also criticized Republicans for threats to link defunding ObamaCare to the debt ceiling, which is set to expire Oct. 17.
“Now you want to threaten to not only shut down our government but to blow up the world economy unless we go back and undo what we did according to the processes of this democracy?” Gore said. “How dare you?”
But the media is still pushing their “both sides do it” narrative. At The Atlantic, James Fallows offers Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead. Here’s just a taste:
As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement,represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the “dig in their heels” headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.
This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.
Now please click the link and go over to The Atlantic–it’s a must read.
I’m running out of space, so I’ll go with a link dump on Ted Cruz–if you have the stomach for the details you can go to the sources.
John Dickerson at Slate: Why Senate Republicans Hate Ted Cruz
Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz Now Ruining John Boehner’s Life, Too
Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about? See you in the comment thread!
Two more days until my daughter goes under the knife for the first time in her life and she is a nervous wreck. (Me too.) She has never even had stitches, so this little trip to the hospital on Tuesday will be one hell of an emotional ride for her. And to top it all off, her 15th birthday is on Wednesday…hopefully she will be in too heavy a drug induced haze to feel the pain. So please, all you Sky Dancers will send positive thoughts her way, she needs it!
Since there is so much going on right now, I will give you this mornings links in quick fashion and if any are repeats…oops! (Just have been so busy since we found out about her surgery, don’t know what has been said or linked on the blog.)
I had no idea that John Kerry met with, Henry Kissinger. Geez…it is hard for me to even type the man’s name without thinking of his deep, deep voice and that accent, or as Betsy and Arlene called him in the 1999 movie Dick…”That German guy.” Here is what Amy Goodman had to say about it: John Kerry meets coup plotter Henry Kissinger on the 40th anniversary of Chile’s Sept. 11
While this was going on, Congress is still making with the War on Science continues: plan to create science laureate falters in Congress. They can’t even agree on naming a person as an honorary non-paid US Science Laureate, which is a position kind of like the US Poet Laureate…only this person will be involved in sciences. Of course this means “science” as only the way Gawwwd intended.
The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) in the House. It had been sailing through Congress with bipartisan support. Wired Magazine speculated about potential nominees in the vein of Richard Feynman or Carl Sagan, such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Jill Tarter, Mike Brown, or Sylvia Earle.
And then, the American Conservative Union discovered the plan when it hit the schedule for a floor vote, the magazine Science reported Thursday.
After Larry Hart, Director of the ACU, sent a letter to Congress saying in part that the president would be able to appoint scientists “who will share his view that science should serve political ends, on such issues as climate change and regulation of greenhouse gases,” House leadership pulled the bill from the schedule, returning it to Committee on Science, Space, and Technology where it will likely be killed in the Republican-controlled House.
You know…Mountain Dew is the best soda ever made.
Ah…rednecks. Speaking of which, this next article is pretty interesting: Ironically-Named City of Sistersville Still Bans Women from Voting
West Virginia (unfairly most of the time) seems to be the go-to backwoods state in America. Incest, murderous hillbillies, haunted coal-mining towns straddling the cave mouth to Hell, illiteracy, and prescription drug abuse are often mentioned in connection with West Virginia, as if the Appalachian squiggle-blob state (seriously, it’s like the cartographer coughed while drawing the borders) functioned as a repository for all of America’s nastiest secrets. You want to make a movie about a crew of British spelunkers who find themselves deep underground at the mercy of highly-evolved, carnivorous bat-people? Set it in West Virginia! You’re lost and hoping to stop at a gas station to ask for directions? Don’t stop in West Virginia! Every state has its stretches of desolate terror highway, so where does West Virginia’s bad rep come from?
It might have something to do with outdated town charters like the one belonging to a tiny city on the banks of the Ohio River called Sistersville, a place that sounds unfairly creepy, as if the twins from The Shining stood sentry-like next to the sign at the city limits, beckoning for creeped-out motorists to play with them. In fact, Sistersville, with a population just shy of 1,500, has a more unfortunate problem than ghosts wandering the city limits — its charter still bars women from voting. Yup, the ironic twist in Sistersville is that, according to the town charter, only the dudes can vote.
I know, right? WTF. The town could change the charter, allowing women the right to vote, but this cost money….Money the town just does not have.
The Nineteenth Amendment ensures that women can freely vote in Sistersville. In a way, ignoring the outdated charter — which must have all kinds of other anachronistic nonsense about not leaving your gaslamp on when the Wendigo comes around, or making sure to chase away French fur trappers if they wander too close to your property line — is itself a sign of progress; it’s so thoroughly taken for granted that women can vote that Sistersville charter issue has been reduced to a cost/benefits issue. Besides, according to Schleier, West Virginia is full of outdated town charters, like the charter in nearby Paden City that requires men have to do manual labor for the city two days out of every year for the discount rate of $1.05. Why focus on one outdated town charter, misogynistic as it may be, when there are plenty riddled with long-ignored pen strokes from a long time ago?
Then again, not changing the charter to show that women can vote would leave Sistersville’s female population particularly susceptible to the whims of a post-apocalyptic town despot who takes over when the United States federal government falls into ruin (one must always plan ahead). Plus, it must really suck to live, work, and pay property taxes in a city that doesn’t officially consider you a full-fledged citizen.
Honestly, I don’t think it will take an apocalyptic event for some dickhead to take over the city where women work, live and pay property taxes in and then declare its women are not full-fledged citizens. Fairfax, Virginia comes to mind…Remember this asshole and the mess regarding the abortion clinics facilities within the city limits? Virginia City Attempts to ‘Ordinance’ Out Safe Abortion
The Fairfax, Virginia, city council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to change the city zoning code in such a way that “medical care clinics” will be considered separate from doctors’ and dentists’ offices, a move that abortion rights advocates are concerned could make it more difficult for the city’s only abortion clinic to operate.
Under the new zoning rules, medical care clinics will require additional, expensive permits as well as approval from the zoning board to operate. The changes could make it much more difficult for Nova Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax to relocate, after the clinic’s previous landlord ended its lease early because of complaints that included the clinic “attract[ing] numerous protesters … whose presence and actions constitute an unreasonable annoyance.”
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne accused “outside groups” of trying to create a controversy over the zoning change. “I don’t appreciate some of the outside groups here tonight, such as NARAL [National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of Virginia], parachuting into my community and spreading misinformation,” he said, according to Fairfax Patch. “This vote is not about abortion.”
Oh…Bullshit! (I think that is the same remark I made when I first wrote about the dickhead Silverthorne.)
What to read more ridiculous crap from the right? Scott Lemieux over at LG&M has this post up and you must check out the links he is writing about…Innovations In Rape Apologia
Date rape is an apparently common campus crime that usually involves two drunk young people, one of whom has an erect penis, and the other of whom is unable to avert what the erect penis typically does.
Whether you’re trying to blame the rape victim or apologize for the rapist, positing a dick with a mind of its own is a useful device.
Here are the links:
Whiskey Fire: Strictly Comedy, Writes in regard to the R. Stacy McCain quote up top:
To the morally and intellectually sane, if a woman is “unable to avert an erect penis,” in plain English, she is being raped. That is rape. It is as blunt a definition of rape as one could imagine. Unwanted genital penetration occuring without consent? Rape!
The twerp downstairs solemnly informs us that R. Stacy McRape in this quote is a “MAN… SPEAKING HYPOTHETICALLY OR WITH A CERTAIN LEVEL OF IRONY.”
Which is crap.
And, Eschaton: Eschaton, Fair and Balanced, it is a long, long post so go read it in full, but here are a few bits:
There is some controversy about this case, however. Not everyone agrees with the standard view of this murder case. Here at Eschaton we always strive to present both sides of an issue. So, after visiting Talk Left to read about it, you can read the alternative interpretation by Moonie Times reporter/Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy McCain as posted to the Free Republic under his pseudonym BurkeCalhounDabney…
Was Till’s killing racially motivated? Certainly, at least in part — just as Till’s initial action toward Carolyn Bryant was racially motivated. Till thought he could impress his relatives and friends by defying the customs of rural Mississippi. He succeeded too well. Roy Bryant returned home to find that Till’s insulting behavior toward his wife was the talk of the community. Not merely was this a challenge to Bryant’s personal honor, but to the peculiar community standards of that place and time. Roy Bryant either had to do something about Till, or become a pariah and/or a laughingstock in his community.
Now, it is likely that no would wish to return to the community standards and customs that apertained in rural Mississippi in 1955, when the Bryant brothers could kill Emmett Till and be judged not guilty by a jury of their peers. But Emmett Till’s insult to Carolyn Bryant was a personal wrong, and the murder of Emmett Till was a very personal murder. He was not a martyr for “civil rights,” unless you consider it a civil right to insult women.
If you’re bored you can write Andrew Sullivan and noted civil rights expert Jonah Goldberg and ask them what they think of their co-worker.
UPDATE: Just wanted to add that all of Mr. McCain’s posts on the Free Republic were pulled hours after Mike Signorile’s article was published. So, you’ll have to take my word for it.
You go and read the full post.
Hey, check this out too: Medical Examiner In Martin Case Says It Was Lost Deliberately By Prosecution (VIDEO) -
The Martin prosecution was an example of what my lawyer friend calls “a piss-poor job” of presenting evidence to convict. It bothered him and the idea was floated that maybe the case was being thrown, lost on purpose.
Now it looks as though that may have been what happened. The Volusia County medical examiner on the case, Dr. Shiping Bao, is now saying that the prosecutors did lose the case on purpose. Bao claims that the prosecution team, the Sanford police and his superior at the medical examiner’s office were all biased against Trayvon Martin, with the general attitude that “he deserved it.”
Dr. Bao is the M.E. who, as assistant coroner of Volusia County, handled the teen’s body on the night he was shot. According to him, there was no way that Martin could have been on top of Zimmerman when the gun was fired. His autopsy report details why this scenario was impossible. When he was on the witness stand, during the trial on July 5, he testified that Martin took up to 10 minutes to die from exsanguination – he bled to death – and that the boy was in pain and suffering the entire time. He was prepared that day, as a witness for the prosecution, to prove that Martin could not have been the aggressor in the incident. He was ready to present scientific evidence of why this was so. But the prosecutor never asked and Dr. Bao was not able to give his evidence. His testimony could have decisively put the case away for the state.
Dr. Bao was, soon after the case ended, fired from the medical examiner’s office. He felt that he was terminated wrongfully because he knew the truth of the matter: that the prosecution intentionally lost the case. He has now filed a $100 million lawsuit against the state of Florida for wrongful termination. His attorney, Willie Gary, told reporters:
“He was in essence told to zip his lips. ‘Shut up. Don’t say those things.’ “
Of course, it is possible that Dr. Bao is lying. But that seems like a stupid thing to do if he is suing the state. With the recent revelations concerning Zimmerman’s attorneys not being paid and Zimmerman apparently unable to stop himself from falling back on his
substitute penisgun when he’s feeling petulant, these allegations raise serious questions. Was a murderer intentionally set free to kill again? The Chief of Police in the town where Zimmerman currently dwells seems to think so. If this is true and Zimmerman does murder again, the state of Florida is in deep doo-doo, along with the county, police and attorney general’s office. If this is true – if the prosecution in the Martin case purposely lost the case – it opens up the possibility that this is not the first time. All other cases tried by the current attorney general of Florida and her team would be called into question. And the state could be held liable. All because a group of racist officials decided that a 17-year-old kid deserved to die. It’s mind-boggling.
Watch the video of the local Orlando news report at the link.
Update on the Vanderbilt football player accused of rape: Vanderbilt Player Involved in Rape Cover-Up Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor
They are calling the flood in Colorado, a 1000 Year Flood, take a look at some pictures and video here: Photos and videos from dramatic flash floods in Colorado | Grist
At least four deaths have been blamed on the flooding, and a fifth person is presumed dead. More than 500 were “unaccounted for,” although authorities cautioned that designation included people who simply have not yet contacted concerned relatives elsewhere.
About 350 people are unaccounted for in Larimer County, according to the county’s sheriff’s office. In adjacent Boulder County, more than 170 people were unaccounted for but were not considered missing yet, though they had not contacted family members.
Areas from Denver to the Wyoming border remained under the threat of additional rain Sunday, with flash flood watches and warnings posted. Airlifts were set to continue with helicopter crews expanding their searches east to include Longmont, Fort Collins and Weld County.
I hope that anyone with family in the area of these floods has heard from their relatives…let us know that everyone is safe and sound.
I am going to switch gears now…how about a few book and movie links and reviews?
Review: Prepared to flee Cuba ‘Una Noche’ – latimes.com: Movie review: Twins, a sexy bad boy and a planned escape from Cuba. A feature debut captures the country in almost-documentary detail, but the plot thins.
MovieMorlocks.com – The unexpected comedy stylings of Alfred Hitchcock Oh, btw…This month is Alfred Hitchcock month…every Sunday TCM is showing Hitchcock films.
And for the last story today, it is official…Voyager 1 is out of the solar system!
Scientists have been debating for more than a year whether NASA’s 36-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft has left the solar system and become the first human-made object to reach interstellar space.
By a fluke measurement, they now know definitively it has.
“We made it,” lead Voyager scientist Edward Stone, from the California Institute of Technology, told reporters on Thursday.
The key piece of evidence came by chance when a pair of solar flares blasted charged particles in Voyager’s direction in 2011 and 2012. It took a year for the particles to reach the spacecraft, providing information that could be used to determine how dense the plasma was in Voyager’s location.
Plasma consists of charged particles and is more prevalent in the extreme cold of interstellar space than in the hot bubble of solar wind that permeates the solar system.
Voyager 1, now 13 billion miles (21 billion km) from Earth, could not make the measurement directly because its plasma detector stopped working more than 30 years ago.
“This was basically a lucky gift from the sun,” Stone said.
Read the technical stuff on how they measured up the miles at the link above.
No, we’re never going to stop talking about this. It’s the coolest thing ever.
Back when Voyager I was first launched into space, a committee lead by Carl Sagan put together a series of messages for any intelligent life outside our solar system who might come across the ship. Etched on gold-colored copper plates, this series of images and audio greetings is meant to reflect the whole of humanity — and now it’s totally in interstellar space.
There are a lot of ways you can listen to the music that’s contained within the golden discs. First, there’s a simple archive of .wav and .mp3 files on the NASA Voyager archive page. You can stream from there, or you can even download the files and take them around with you on your MP3 player and constantly pretend you’re an alien trying to navigate our way of life. We imagine that would make getting stuck on public transportation so much more fascinating.
If you’ve got a pretty decent internet connection and you also want to stream the record in the coolest way possible, there’s this interactive Golden Record website. While there’s no instructions (the aliens don’t get any, either), you can figure out your way around by clicking on the different parts of the flash menu. If you can’t, here’s a quick tip: top left is the music; top right is the images that were also included; bottom right is the space map that shows Earth’s location in the galaxy.
Want to know more about what is on the Golden Record, click the Geekosystem link and find out.
Hey, look at that? I started out with something connected to Carl Sagan, and I finished up with something different, but still referencing Carl Sagan.
Let’s end with one last picture: How our galaxy might look from outside | Today’s Image | EarthSky
This artist’s impression shows how the Milky Way galaxy might look seen from the outside, from an almost edge-on perspective.
Credit: ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Kornmesser/R. Hurt
New research suggests that, as seen from the outside, the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy shows up as a peanut-shaped glowing ball of stars, while the spiral arms and their associated dust clouds form a narrow band.
One of the most important and massive parts of the galaxy is the galactic bulge. This huge central cloud of about 10,000 million stars spans thousands of light-years, but its structure and origin are not well understood. Why not, when it’s our home galaxy? Because, from our vantage point from within the galactic disk, our view of this central region — at about 27,000 light-years’ distance — is heavily obscured by dense clouds of gas and dust.
There is a link to a 3D version of what our galaxy may look like, just go to the EarthSky link from the image up top to find it.
Well, this should keep you busy for a while. I will be
very damn busy myself this week, so if I’m AWOL y’all know why…its because I am taking care of “the Girl,” my little munchkin…
Have a great day and enjoy your third Sunday in September.
In the weeks since Edward Snowden absconded with thousands of top secret National Security Agency (NSA) files and traveled to Hong Kong and then Moscow and handed over the documents to Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, we’ve learned that the U.S. spies on lots of other countries. Snowden has revealed that NSA has spied on China, Russia, Germany, France, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Iran, and the UN. Oddly, we haven’t gotten much new information from Snowden about illegal or abusive NSA spying on Americans, which Snowden initially suggested was his reason for stealing the secret documents.
To most nominally intelligent and informed people, the fact that NSA spies on foreign countires is not particularly surprising; since collecting foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) is the primary purpose of NSA as stated publicly on their website. Here is NSA’s statement of their “core mission”:
The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.
The Information Assurance mission confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. The Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations. This Agency also enables Network Warfare operations to defeat terrorists and their organizations at home and abroad, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.
Spying on foreign countries is what NSA does. Why that is perceived as somehow illegal and/or shocking by Greenwald, Poitras, Snowden, and their cult followers, I have no clue. But the fact that a spy agency collects foreign signals intelligence really should not be considered breaking news; and the countries that are complaining about it are well known for spying on the US in return–and in some cases (e.g., China, Russia, and Israel) for famously stealing U.S. secrets and technology.
Today the Washington Post has a new “blockbuster” article that reveals that the U.S. is particularly focused on spying on Pakistan. Now I wonder why that would be? Anyone want to speculate? It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Pakistan concealed the location of Osama bin Laden for years, could it? Or the fact that Taliban and al Quaeda operatives regularly hide in Pakistan? Just a couple of wild guesses…
Here’s an excerpt from the WaPo article:
A 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s “black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counterterrorism sources recruited by the CIA.
Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else.
The disclosures — based on documents provided to The Washington Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden — expose broad new levels of U.S. distrust in an already unsteady security partnership with Pakistan, a politically unstable country that faces rising Islamist militancy. They also reveal a more expansive effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan than U.S. officials have disclosed.
The United States has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan over the past 12 years, aimed at stabilizing the country and ensuring its cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. But with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda degraded, U.S. spy agencies appear to be shifting their attention to dangers that have emerged beyond the patch of Pakistani territory patrolled by CIA drones.
“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”
The stolen files also reveal serious human rights issues in Pakistan and fears about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Raise your hand if you’re shocked by any this. I can certainly see why these revelations would be harmful to U.S. national security and foreign relations, however.
Via The Jerusalem Post, another Snowden leak revealed by the Washington Post showed that members of terrorist organizations have tried to join the CIA.
…individuals with past connections to known terrorist entities such as al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas, have repeatedly attempted to obtain employment within the CIA, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Among job-seekers that seemed suspicious to the CIA, approximately 20% of that grouping reportedly had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections.” The nature of the connections was not described in the document.
“Over the last several years, a small subset of CIA’s total job applicants were flagged due to various problems or issues,” an anonymous CIA official was reported as saying. “During this period, one in five of that small subset were found to have significant connections to hostile intelligence services and or terrorist groups.” [....]
The document also allegedly stated that the CIA re-investigates thousands of employees each year to reduce the possibility that an individual with these connections may compromise sensitive information.
Can anyone explain to me why this should be considered criminal or why the person who revealed it should be called a “whistle-blower?” It seems to me, the only reason for revealing the methods the U.S. uses to collect foreign SIGINT is a desire to harm U.S. Government and damage its foreign policy. Here’s Bob Cesca, who has consistently critiqued libertarians Snowden and Greenwald and their anti-government motives from a liberal, rational point of view: Greenwald Reports NSA Spied on Presidents of Brazil andMexico.
We’re not sure exactly which section of the U.S. Constitution protects the privacy rights of foreign leaders, but Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden appear to believe it’s in there somewhere. The tandem crusaders for the Fourth Amendment have once again extended their reach beyond what was intended to be their mutual goal of igniting a debate in the United States about the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, and, instead, opted to reveal that, yes, the U.S. spies on foreign leaders. Shocking, I know.
Specifically, on the Globo television show “Fantasico” in Brazil, Greenwald described a July, 2012 document stolen from NSA by Snowden, which describes how NSA had intercepted communications made by the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, as well as Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff. (Incidentally, the Globo article contains 13 corporate trackers or “web bugs.”)
The goal of revealing this information is clear. Greenwald and Snowden have successfully exploited the “sparking a debate” motive as a Trojan Horse for injecting unrelated information into public view as a means of vindictively damaging the operations of U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities, not to mention the reputation of the United States as a whole, while also pushing the unrealistic message that surveillance is generally impermissible. Yes, we already knew that nations spy on other nations, but to publicly disclose specific instances of international spying — while on the soil of one of the nations being surveilled — confirms these suspicions and sorely embarrasses everyone involved.
But guess what? Both Mexico and Brazil have powerful spy agencies that conduct “active surveillance” on the U.S.
In Brazil, it’s called the Agência Brasileira de Inteligência (ABIN or the Brazilian Intelligence Agency). It deals with external and domestic intelligence gathering: collection and analysis of information that’s intercepted via both signals (SIGINT collects email, phone calls and so forth) and human resources.
In Mexico, it’s called S-2. Like ABIN or NSA, S-2 also collects SIGINT on foreign targets, with a special focus on the military operations of foreign governments. Along with its counterpart, the Centro de Información de Seguridad Nacional (Center for Research on National Security or CISIN), S-2 is tasked with counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism operations.
Has anyone overheard Greenwald mention, even in passing, either of these agencies? Likely not, and don’t hold your breath waiting for Greenwald to attack Brazil’s intelligence community, even knowing that it wiretapped its own Senate and Supreme Court several years ago. Along those lines, we don’t know exactly whether these agencies have attempted to spy on any of our presidents or government officials, but wouldn’t Greenwald, as a U.S. citizen and resident of Brazil, want to find out using the same “Glennzilla” tenacity he’s employed while exposing U.S. spying? If his crusade now involves universal privacy, wouldn’t that include violations by the Brazilian government, especially knowing that Greenwald lives in Rio de Janeiro?
Read more at the link.
In other news….
The civil war in Syria continues to be the top international story, and The New York Times has a couple of helpful articles. The first is an explainer that deals with Key Questions on the Conflict in Syria. I won’t excerpt from it–read it at the NYT if you’re interested. Next, an article that explains how American policy on Syria may affect possible negotiations with Iran: Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Eyes Iran Talks.
As the Obama administration makes a case for punitive airstrikes on the Syrian government, its strongest card in the view of some supporters of a military response may be the need to send a message to another country: Iran. If the United States does not enforce its self-imposed “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons, this thinking goes, Iran will smell weakness and press ahead more boldly in its quest for nuclear weapons.
But that message may be clashing with a simultaneous effort by American officials to explore dialogue with Iran’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, in the latest expression of Washington’s long struggle to balance toughness with diplomacy in its relations with a longtime adversary.
Two recent diplomatic ventures have raised speculation about a possible back channel between Washington and Tehran. Last week, Jeffrey Feltman, a high State Department official in President Obama’s first term who is now a senior envoy at the United Nations, visited Iran to meet with the new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and discussed possible reactions to an American airstrike in Syria.
In line with the international beating up on the U.S. that has followed the Snowden-Greenwald-Poitras “revelations” that NSA spies on foreign countries, The Daily Mail has a snarky article with numerous photos about a dinner that John Kerry had with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2009.
An astonishing photograph of John Kerry having a cozy and intimate dinner with Bashar al-Assad has emerged at the moment the U.S Secretary of State is making the case to bomb the Syrian dictator’s country and remove him from power.
Kerry, who compared Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein yesterday, is pictured around a small table with his wife Teresa Heinz and the Assads in 2009.
Assad and Kerry, then a Massachusetts senator, lean in towards each other and appear deep in conversation as their spouses look on.
A waiter is pictured at their side with a tray of green drinks, believed to be lemon and crushed mint.
Now, why would Kerry be having dinner with Syria’s president? The Daily Mail tells us:
The picture was likely taken in February 2009 in the Naranj restaurant in Damascus, when Kerry led a delegation to Syria to discuss finding a way forward for peace in the region.
At the time, Kerry was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and what he was doing is called “diplomacy.” But looking back in the age of Snowden, it seems that instead of having a polite dinner, Kerry should have punched Assad in the nose and screamed at him at the top of his lungs to get with the program–or something…
From the Wall Street Journal: Syrian Electronic Army Hacks Marines Website
A collection of pro-Syrian government hackers apparently defaced a Marine Corps recruitment website Monday.
The Syrian Electronic Army, which has hacked a series of websites, posted a letter on the Marines.com website arguing the Syrian government is “fighting a vile common enemy.”
“The Syrian army should be your ally not your enemy,” the letter read. “Refuse your orders and concentrate on the real reason every soldier joins their military, to defend their homeland. You’re more than welcome to fight alongside our army rather than against it.”
See a screen shot at the link. The site is now back up and running normally.
I’ll end there and post my remaining links in the thread below. As always, please post links to the stories you’re following in the comments as well.
Hello…today is going to be my last post for the month of August, I am taking the next seven plus days off…and will be back in full force the first Wednesday in September. I’ve needed this break more than you can imagine, the news has been so depressing, the lack of function in DC is even worse. The War on Women gets me so pissed off, and the ridiculous actions of the right-wing goes beyond stupid and into the realm of fuckin’ idiotic dumbshit assholes . Uh, want a perfect example? How is this? From The Daily Banter: State Senator: High Minority Poverty Caused by Genetics, Fried Chicken, Porno | BobCesca.com
We see and hear so many awful things come from the mouths of Republicans, it’s easy to become desensitized and no longer blink when they say it, but this from Colorado State Senator Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) is impressively bad.
According to her, black and Hispanic people suffer from higher rates of poverty because of their genetics, fried chicken, and porno.
MARBLE: When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup and you just can’t help it. Although I’ve gotta say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down south and you, I mean I love it and everybody loves it. The Mexican diet in Mexico with all of the fresh vegetables. And you go down there and they’re much thinner than when they come up here. they change their diet. I’ve read studies on that. They become Americanized. Down the street near five-points there used to an old cafe there called Type-2 Chicken and I wanted to eat there for years because I knew it was just going to be the best ever.
You know these things aren’t good for you. And it’s really funny because there’s so many attributing factors as to why these graphs look the way they do. And I think when we look at things we have to take into a lot of attributing factors that one can’t be helped like genetics and the others that can be worked around, maybe the addictions. Certainly some people have addictive personalities. Addictions come in all different forms. You have alcoholics, rageoholics, drug addicts. You have people who are addicted, they say, to porn.
You got that right!
Poor diet does not lead to poverty, poverty leads to poor diet. And poverty is not caused by genetics or pornography. It’s caused by social apathy and ignorance from people like Senator Vicki Marble who are elected to serve the public interest.
Marble also went on to blame bad parenting and government regulations as reasons why black and Hispanic communities suffer from higher rates of poverty. Because she only had a limited amount of time to spout every stereotype and trope swirling around in her head before being cut off by her colleagues who were having a deer-in-the-headlights moment.
Marble says she is “saddened” that her comments came off the wrong way, as if they could have been taken any other way.
Then you have the stupid assholes that put other people’s lives in danger because of their own ridiculous actions: Vaccine-fearing Texas megachurch urges flock to immunize after measles outbreak | The Raw Story
A Texas megachurch whose leaders have linked vaccines to autism is now asking its members to get immunizations or stay quarantined after an outbreak of measles was traced to the congregation.
Instead of her normal sermon on Sunday, Eagle Mountain International Church Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons was forced to spend the majority of her time explaining how the congregation should react to the news that all of the 11 measles cases in Tarrant County had been linked to members or visitors of the church.
“You are more than enough, Jesus, you are more than enough!” Pearsons began. “You’re more than enough for any need we have. More than enough, Jesus. For things known and unknown, Jesus, you are more than enough. Can you shout, amen?”
“We’re going to talk about some things affecting our church, and as we go through it, we remain steadfast that Jesus is more than enough,” she told the congregation. “There has been a … confirmed case of the measles from the Tarrant County Public Health Department. And that is a really big deal in that America, the United States has been essentially measles free for I think it’s 10 years. And so when measles pops up anywhere else in the United States, the health department — well, you know, it excites them.”
Pearsons went on to say that the church was offering free vaccination clinics, and urged those who did not attend to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.
But the call for vaccinations was made awkward by the fact that Pearsons’ father, televangelist Kenneth Copeland, has promoted the idea that vaccines may lead to autism, according to the Dallas Observer.
Okay, I gotta a name for Pearsons’ father, televangelist Kenneth Copeland… he’s a real dooflicker. (*Jan. 1, 1953 “foreskin/penis”)
If you want another story that deals with dooflickers, how about this one…a black family was discriminated against in a Wild Wings Cafe restaurant in South Carolina…and what was that crap about no more racism in America? Yeah, right : African American Family Denied Service at Wild Wings Cafe | Mediaite
An African American family who were denied service at a Wild Wings Café in Charleston, South Carolina after another patron felt “threatened,” claimed they were discriminated against, and were not satisfied with the restaurant’s response.
After waiting over two hours, customer Michael Brown and his family, who were at the restaurant for a going-away party, were told that there was “a situation.”
“[The manager] said there’s a situation where one of our customers feels threatened by your party, so she asked us not to seat you in our section, which totally alarmed all of us because we’re sitting there peaceably for two hours,” Brown said according to WCSC. “Obviously, if we were causing any conflict, we would have been ejected out of the place hours before.”
When a member of the party began filming the exchange, the manager asked them to leave.
“I asked her I want to be clear with you,” Brown said. “I said, ‘So you’re telling me I have to leave.’ She said, ‘I have a right to deny you service.’ I said, ‘So you’re asking me to leave because you’re upset because he was recording you, after we’ve waited for two hours, and after you’ve already pretty much discriminated on us,’ and she answered, ‘Yes.’”
The company offered Brown a free meal….
When phone calls to the Wild Wings Café corporate office were not returned, Brown posted a critical message about the restaurant on Facebook, after which the company promptly responded.
“We had a conversation,” said the restaurant’s chief marketing officer. “It was a really good conversation. He and many of his family and friends were there about a month ago, and they are regular customers of ours. So, they were having a going away party, and they just didn’t receive the experience that they have come to know and love.”
Brown was offered a free meal, which he was not satisfied with. “We weren’t there for a free meal,” he said.
Video at the link.
There was another shooting yesterday, this time in Florida: Deadly North Florida shooting spree ends in suicide; gunman, 2 former coworkers killed – OrlandoSentinel.com
If you have not read the details behind the shero from this past week…the one woman who stopped a massacre from happening in a Decatur Elementary School, you need to. Antoinette Tuff-Michael Brandon Hill: Atlanta school clerk says she talked gunman into surrendering.
Meanwhile, a quick update on Russia: Critics: Putin’s Olympic Security Decree Violates Rights
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to tighten security in the Black Sea resort of Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics, imposing restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly that critics said violated human rights.
The decree creates a “prohibited zone” encompassing much of the sprawling city, barring travel into Sochi by road without special permission and banning public gatherings “not connected” with the Olympics in high security areas on land and sea.
Putin has staked his reputation on the security and success of Russia’s first Olympics since the Soviet era and has ordered law enforcement authorities to prevent any attacks by Islamist militants based in the nearby North Caucasus provinces.
In early July, insurgent leader Doku Umarov revoked a previous order to refrain from attacking Russian targets outside the North Caucasus and urged militants to use “maximum force” to prevent Putin staging the Games.
Published in the official newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday, the decree enters into force on Jan. 7, a month before the opening ceremony, and expires on March 21, a month after the Olympics end.
Human rights activists said the restrictions were draconian.
Barring cars from outside Sochi restricts Russians’ freedom of movement and the ban on most public gatherings violates their constitutional right to free assembly, said Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer and head of the legal aid group Agora.
“Under such conditions the Olympics, which are supposed to be celebration of sport and democracy, will become the exact opposite,” prominent Russian environmental activist Alexei Yablokov said in a comment posted on the Internet.
“Nature is being destroyed, people are being evicted from their homes, and now it turns out that a state of emergency is being imposed,” he said.
Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev said he planned to hold a gay pride march in Sochi on the opening day of the Olympics and that it could not be prohibited by presidential decree.
“Are the Olympics an emergency situation, like a war or a natural disaster?” Alexeyev was quoted as saying by the website grani.ru. “There has been no precedent in history in which peaceful demonstrations have been banned in a city where the Olympics were being held.”
Oh boy…that is one hell of a headache, something has to be done, but I get the feeling it ain’t happening.
There is an exhibit at The Met that ends today: The Metropolitan Museum of Art – P.S. Art 2013
This year marks the eleventh anniversary of P.S. Art, an annual exhibition of talented young artists from New York City’s public schools. The selection showcases the creativity of eighty-three prekindergarten through grade 12 students from all five boroughs and includes paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media works, collages, and drawings. Each piece demonstrates personal expression, imaginative use of media, close observation, and an understanding of artistic processes.
This juried exhibition is also a celebration of public school achievement in the arts. Dedicated art teachers support students’ creativity and help them look closely in order to respond to their worlds through art making. As students take art classes from one year to the next, they increase their understanding of art, sharpen their skills, and delve more deeply into their imaginations.
You can view a slide show with an essay written by some of the students at this link here: The Metropolitan Museum of Art – P.S. Art 2013: Student Artworks
Age 10, Grade 4
P.S./I.S. 49, Queens
Art Teacher: Katherine Huala
Chalk pastel on paper
Art comes from your heart and it’s full of magic. I remember drawing and doodling since the age of two. I feel that when I draw, I learn many amazing things. I would like to be an artist when I grow up.
I want you to feel the emotions that I am feeling in my drawing. Look very closely and notice that I am trying to show many different feelings in my portrait. I look quiet and in a good mood, but actually I want to show different feelings. One of my sides is a rainbow showing happiness, curiosity, and shyness. My other side shows sadness and upset feelings. I used many blues to show one strong feeling. My drawing shows that colors and lines may be used to show many different feelings.
Yasmine’s piece is a final work in a drawing unit in which students were asked to make an expressive self-portrait using line, shape, and color to describe a feeling or mood. Students were inspired by the work of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Kirchner, Soutine, and Delaunay. The artists spent time exploring chalk pastels, and we discussed how controlling chalk is more challenging than controlling oil pastels. Students practiced various blending and texture techniques to develop imaginative capacities and observational and expressive skills.
Yasmine is an incredibly committed and enthusiastic artist. Her work has subtlety and thoughtfulness, and is exemplary for a fourth-grade student. Yasmine’s drawing shows a deep understanding of line, shape, and color. I particularly like the way she considered gesture and point of view. The slanted shoulders and tilt of the head add to the expressive quality of the portrait. The way Yasmine blended the pastels and used various degrees of pressure to create different visual effects is very advanced.
Go look at the rest of the artwork selected, it is wonderful.
Okay, there was some fuss this past week on Bradley Manning/Chelsea Manning, and the use of pronouns…and wigs and lipstick. Well, I will post a couple of links and see what kind of reaction you have to them:
I have some thoughts on how Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s gender dysphoria was rolled out.
Let me begin by saying I’m going to give, and I’m going to advocate for, respect for Manning’s chosen name and publicly embraced gender, and I’m going to use female pronouns and call her Chelsea. That; however, comes with a mixed bag of emotions.
I’m going to respect Chelsea’s public request in part because of the Biblical teaching I learned as Pentecostal youth that I still embrace today: treat others as I want to be treated.
But as I respect her name and identified gender, I’m cognizant that Chelsea didn’t respect the trans community — the trans community of which I am a part — in how she came out.
Yesterday, Manning made this statement upon sentencing.
“I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. … When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.”
Certainly the probability exists that people were endangered and possibly hurt. The deception in Manning’s words is his claim that he meant no harm. If you love your country, you do not violate oaths you have taken. You do not expose fellow citizens to peril. You do not provide classified and secret information to those who can and might make it available to enemies in time of war, and you do not do this as if your “practical joke” will cause harm to high officials in your government and other cooperative governments. You do not do these things lightly in a time of war.
So this morning, we awakened to the news that Bradley Manning is no longer a man but rather a woman – a woman to be called “Chelsea.” Really?
Following his sentencing to 35 years for leaking military documents to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning now seeks hormone treatments and wants to live as a woman named Chelsea.
At left, Manning is escorted from a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 22, 2011. At right, in an undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Manning is shown wearing a wig and lipstick. (AP Photos)
Without getting into the LGBT issues here or the legal intricacies of the degree to which what a prisoner “wants” should be obliged or where we draw lines re: necessary medical interventions on their behalf – I mean I have committed no crimes and would like to be 5’7″ and might want a LifeStyle Lift one day (will you taxpayers please fund it?) – without even asking if convicts have a right to a name change (spies do this all the time, after all) – I do feel it incumbent on me to ask what name could have been more ironic? Oh, wait! I know! Hillary Manning. Yes, that would be a tad more ironic!
You did it, Manning, so man up! To me, your name is Mudd!
Since I have lived under a rock since Tuesday night, I really don’t have an opinion on all of this. Blah…is what I feel at the moment.
Now just a few Hollywood links…
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat – there’s nothing great about cutting off another man’s ear. So when we’re discussing the merits or otherwise of Quentin Tarantino’s invariably aggressive characters, let’s all accept that by “great” we don’t mean admirable. We mean memorable. And there’s a hell of a lot of them.
We set ourselves the task of whittling dozens and dozens of QT’s finest creations down to just 25. You can let us know how horribly wrong we are in the comments, but bear in mind that for every negative comment made, the editor picks one of us writers to suffer his infamous Five Point Palm Exploding Paycheck Technique.
Hmmm, I have to put Jackie Brown up there at the top…along with Odell Robbie of course. But then…Hans Landa was one hell of a NAZI.
On to Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad. Gunn plays Skyler White, the wife of bad guy and homicidal meth making monster, Mr. White. She wrote an op/ed for the NY Times about the hate her character receives on a daily basis around social media sites. Check it out: I Have a Character Issue
PLAYING Skyler White on the television show “Breaking Bad” for the past five seasons has been one of the most rewarding creative journeys I’ve embarked on as an actor. But the role has also taken me on another kind of journey — one I never would have imagined.
My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women. As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.
You should read the whole thing because she explains a lot, but I want to bring your attention to this:
At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me. The already harsh online comments became outright personal attacks. One such post read: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?
But I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives. Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypical female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.
I can’t say that I have enjoyed being the center of the storm of Skyler hate. But in the end, I’m glad that this discussion has happened, that it has taken place in public and that it has illuminated some of the dark and murky corners that we often ignore or pretend aren’t still there in our everyday lives.
As I said go read the rest, Gunn does bring up some valid points.
Then take a look at these responses from a few other online mags:
Is “Breaking Bad’s” Skyler White (Anna Gunn) the most hated woman on TV these days?
Judging from Facebook pages dedicated to loathing her, it certainly seems like it. And Gunn isn’t shy about admitting it upsets her … not just when it comes to defending Skyler — the wife of drug lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston) — but women as a whole.
“As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch,” Gunn, who is in her final episodes of AMC’s critically-acclaimed drama, wrote in a New York Times Op-ed.“But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or ‘stand by her man’? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?”
“It’s notable that viewers have expressed similar feelings about other complex TV wives,” she continued. “Carmela Soprano of ‘The Sopranos,’ Betty Draper of ‘Mad Men.’ Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.”
Perhaps Gunn has a point. While Walt, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) got away with murder — at least in some cases — their stubborn wives somehow come out looking like the bad guys.
But online her character on the show, Skyler White, has earned a “bewildering” amount of fan vitriol.
Anna Gunn’s Just Trying To Understand Why People Want To Kill Her- Huffington Post
As Breaking Bad comes to a close (AHHHH!), hopefully cultural critics will be examining viewers’ vitriol against Walter White’s complex, long-suffering wife — which has been so severe it’s been termed “the Skyler White” effect and applied to other TV wives — at length. [Spoilers to follow.]
Just as it’s hard to pin down at what precise point that Cranston’s character became more Heisenberg than Walt, it’s impossible to say when in the series Skyler became the most hated female character on television. When she devised, businesslike, the elaborate gambling-addiction cover-up to tell Hank and Marie? When she bought the car wash and became complicit in Walt’s crime? The infamous “I fucked Ted” line, basically the only way she could assert her autonomy? The latter would be my guess.
Anna Gunn, who has watched the criticism of her character become criticism of her as a person, even to the point of death threats, writes for the New York Times:
A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.” “I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”
She points out that other wives of antiheroes on popular TV shows have elicited similar feelings, e.g. Carmela Soprano and Betty Draper. But unlike Mad Men or The Sopranos, in the last few seasons, for better or worse, Breaking Bad has indulged in a certain fan-boy attitude towards its leading man (during an old-school Western standoff: “You’re Heisenberg.” “You’re damn right.”) that might attract the kind of male viewers who actually root for “badass” Walt — and detest Skylar for being a buzzkill, fucking someone else and giving the guy all of Walt’s money, even changing physically. Maybe a viable explanation for the phenomenon is that the type of audience has changed.
Wow…again…take a look at the rest of those links.
And finally, last night we learned that Julie Harris passed away. I thought she was a hell of an actress. God I loved her in The Haunting! Anyway, here is her Obituary: Julie Harris, Broadway star, dies at 87
(Photo: Suzanne Plunkett, AP)
Julie Harris, one of Broadway’s most honored performers, whose roles ranged from the flamboyant Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera to the reclusive Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst, died Saturday. She was 87.
Harris died at her West Chatham, Mass. home of congestive heart failure, actress and family friend Francesca James said.
Harris won a record five Tony Awards for best actress in a play, displaying a virtuosity that enabled her to portray an astonishing gallery of women during a theater career that spanned almost 60 years and included such plays as The Member of the Wedding (1950), The Lark (1955), Forty Carats (1968) and The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1972).
She was honored again with a sixth Tony, a special lifetime achievement award in 2002. Only Angela Lansbury has neared her record, winning four Tonys in the best actress-musical category and one for best supporting actress in a play.
In the movies, she was James Dean’s romantic co-star in East of Eden (1955), and had rolls in such films as Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), The Haunting (1963) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
Yet Harris’ biggest successes and most satisfying moments have been on stage. “The theater has been my church,” the actress once said. “I don’t hesitate to say that I found God in the theater.”
The 5-foot-4 Harris, blue-eyed with delicate features and reddish-gold hair, made her Broadway debut in 1945 in a short-lived play called It’s a Gift. Five years later, at the age of 24, Harris was cast as Frankie, a lonely 12-year-old tomboy on the brink of adolescence, in The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers’ stage version of her wistful novel.
The critics raved about Harris, with Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times calling her performance “extraordinary — vibrant, full of anguish and elation.”
“That play was really the beginning of everything big for me,” Harris had said.
The actress appeared in the 1952 film version, too, with her original Broadway co-stars, Ethel Waters and Brandon De Wilde, and received an Academy Award nomination.
Harris was born on Dec. 2, 1925, in Grosse Pointe, Mich., the daughter of an investment banker. She grew up fascinated by movies, later saying she thought of herself as plain-looking and turned to acting as a way of becoming other persons.
She made her stage debut at the Grosse Pointe Country Day School in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at age 14. In the years that followed, she studied drama in finishing school, prep school, Yale University and the Actor’s Studio.
Harris was married three times, to lawyer Jay I. Julian, stage manager Manning Gurian and writer William Erwin Carroll. She had one son, Peter Alston Gurian.
For a review of a couple of her movies I will post a two videos from Steve Hays aka Tired Old Queer…damn do I love this man…if you can catch some of her movies on TCM, please do!
East of Eden
Have a wonderful day, and see you all in September!
Well, after having a good evening, watching a couple of Italian films last night, Life is Beautiful and Miracle on Madonna Street, I have a few links for you this morning.
The New York Post has an article about the battles being fought in Africa: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars to Iran
The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection.
Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150.
For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation.
When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran.
Read the rest at the link, it is a long article.
In other news, this time out of Brazil: Fast New Test Could Find Leprosy Before Damage Is Lasting
A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore.
American researchers developed the test, and Brazil’s drug-regulatory agency registered it last month. A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less.
“This will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages,” said Dr. William Levis, who has treated leprosy patients at a Bellevue Hospital outpatient clinic for 30 years.
Even more important, he said, it is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear. And the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, related to the one that causes tuberculosis, but reproducing so slowly that symptoms often take seven years to appear.
This new test requires just a drop of blood and the results are given after only ten minutes.
The disease has historically been hard to diagnose, despite the popular, but inaccurate, image of fingers and toes dropping off victims. As the bacteria kill nerves, muscles atrophy and those digits curl into claws. After disuse and repeated injuries, the body reacts protectively by absorbing the bone calcium in the bones, shrinking the digits.
For centuries, some observant doctors have noticed early signs: the numb skin patches, missing eyebrows, drooping earlobes, bulging neck nerves, the flat “lion face” caused by nasal cartilage dissolving.
Since nothing could be done for them before the age of antibiotics, victims lost the use of their hands and had to beg. Some also went blind as the blinking muscles degenerated and their eyes dried out. In the Middle Ages, some towns banned lepers, while others required them to ring bells to warn of their approach. Religious charities created “leper colonies.”
And they still exist, even in the United States. A few elderly residents have chosen to stay on in Carville, La., and Kalaupapa, Hawaii, despite having been cured. Several thousand live at one in northeast Brazil, said John S. Spencer, a leprosy researcher at Colorado State University who has worked there. “People say things like ‘People outside won’t understand what’s wrong with my face,’ ” he said.
Nowadays, he said, most patients are cured before their faces are severely disfigured. Still, he said, he had read a survey in which health experts asked Brazilians whether they would rather have the human immunodeficiency virus or leprosy. Most chose H.I.V. — even though leprosy does not kill, can be cured, and does not make a victim risky to have sex with. “The stigma is that strong,” he said.
Wow. Dr Lewis says he hopes the Brazilian test becomes available in the US so he can test the families of his patients. It takes many antibiotics given over 6 months to a year to cure the disease…these new test provide doctors with more time to could help diagnosis leprosy before permanent nerve damage is done.
I guess my PAD is getting the best of me, I just don’t have the energy to give you more than these…and instead of posting links to more of the same news, give a look at some of the artsy reads below.
With the Academy Awards later tonight, I have two links about film and films.
Hollywood is getting ready to hand out the industry’s most prestigious film awards: the Oscars.
Among the contenders for best documentary is a film directed by an Israeli, and another by a Palestinian.
Both the Israeli The Gatekeepers and Palestinian 5 Broken Cameras tell the same story, but from two quite different perspectives.
Video at the link, and…
Digital is taking over Hollywood, but celluloid’s fans intend to fight on
They are some of the most powerful people in one of the most powerful entertainment industries in the world. And when Hollywood’s grandest gather at tonight’s Oscars there will be no end of smiles and handshakes. But they are also fans, and like all fans, they are given to apparently arcane squabbles. The latest is whether films should be shot on, well, film.
Some of the most successful directors, such as James Cameron and George Lucas, are so obsessed with having the best special effects that they have spent millions embracing computer-generated imagery and abandoned 35mm film. Others, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are wedded to traditional celluloid, which is becoming the film equivalent of the vinyl record.
Epics such as Les Misérables and Lincoln – both shot on 35mm – and digital creations such as Life of Pi have all made millions at the box office. While film buffs may talk about the “feel” of film, with all its subtleties, the reality is that pixilated perfection is winning – the whirring of 35mm film projectors silenced by the hum of digital machines.
Just take a look at the films nominated for best picture:
Although many love a sharp, digital picture with high definition, others prefer something a bit less “real”. The split among directors is highlighted in the nominations for Best Picture. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were shot on film. While Argo, Amour, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty were shot on digital. As was The Hobbit nominated in three technical Oscar categories.
David O Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, said: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m superstitious, maybe I’m romantic – I love film and it has a magic quality, it has a warmth. I may use digital cameras in a pinch because they are small and fast but I like film for its humaneness.” He is one of a number of directors determined to continue shooting on 35mm. Another is Nolan, who made the Dark Knight trilogy: “I am now constantly asked to justify why I want to shoot a film on film,” he said. Nolan likens digital to an “amazing” cookie until you realise “this is some horrible chemical crap that’s giving you this bad illusion that fools you at first.”
You can read more about what actors, cinematographers and directors think about digital vs film at the link up top. I tend to agree with the folks who love film…and think that digital sucks.
Another archaic form of technology that gets lost in this day in age is the typewriter. Take this woman’s use of the typewriter:
As romantic as the idea of working on a typewriter now seems, in reality they’re rather clunky and temperamental things. Writing with one would probably take us an age – and if we made a mistake? Well, forget it.
So imagine trying to draw with one.
London based artist Keira Rathbone, originally from Dorset, does exactly that; clustering together marks made by letters, numbers and symbols, to make brilliant, one-off images.
The English artist clusters letters, numbers and symbols from a typewriter keyboard to composite images; from portraits of friends and celebrities to landscapes and still life. A closer look at what looks like a sketch of Wimborne Minster, a church in East Dorset, England, reveals swirls of ampersands and the ticks of quotations marks.
Watch the video below to see the artist at work, and click through the slideshow to see examples of her typewriter art. Visit keirarathbone.com for more examples of her work.
Be sure to take a look at the pictures, Rathone’s art is impressive…
Another obsolete form of technology is shown below…Keypunch Orchestra: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive
June 1937. “Baltimore, Maryland. For every Social Security account number issued an ‘employee master card’ is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank form SS-5, is transferred to this master card in the form of upended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows records office workers punching master cards on key punch machines.” Whew. Longest caption ever? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
That is all I have for you this morning. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, see ya later on tonight…should be quite a show.
So what are you all reading and blogging about today?