Sunday Reads: Wishing Ain’t Getting

 

Morning All…

ca935b51679ec513314e4a5496a5c4b6Yesterday Boston Boomer made a “wish” in the comment section,

I wish something good would happen in the news.

Oh yes….me too!

I think there are many of us out there who do agree with her. Things have gotten way outta control, and for someone in my situation…honestly, I have checked out.

Even BB’s awesome post last week about TimeWarner being sold to Murdock, the only thing running through my brain was, “Oh no…what will happen to Turner Classic Movies!!!!” For that is the only thing saving my sanity these days.

I can’t deal with war and torture and abandoned children, its too much. My usual outlet, sarcastic humor is gone, nothing can bring about a smartass remark or cheeky comment these days…I’m done.

So again I will just tread water today and give you a quick dump of links.

Starting with a couple of assholes: Awful: Couple Ditches Baby with Down Syndrome with Thai Surrogate

An anonymous Australian couple has ignited a huge controversy after abandoning a baby they had using a surrogate because he had Down syndrome and taking his healthy twin sister back to Australia with them. Because humanity just wasn’t insufferable enough.1bf221f66e87e9d5bdea7ee799dec374

Because commercial surrogacy is outlawed in Australia (though they may use an altruistic surrogate who does not receive any payment outside medical expenses), many couples seek options overseas to make things easier. Fertility clinics in places like Thailand and India have become hotspots as they are a much easier options for overseas parents-to-be and poorer Indian women can make a considerable amount of money from surrogacy.

Pattaramon Chanbua of Thailand agreed to be a surrogate for the unnamed Australian couple in question. According to Sydney Morning Herald, Pattaramon discovered she was having twins three months after being injected with the Australian woman’s fertilized eggs and was promised an additional sum of money. The next month they discovered one of the babies had Down syndrome. When the agency informed the Australian couple, they said they were not going to take the boy and allegedly asked her to have an abortion—which she refused.

When she gave birth to the twins in December of last year, the agent took the healthy baby girl, and left her with the baby boy. Pattaramon claims that she has yet to be fully compensated by the agency. She has never met the Australian parents.

b05df84e42002e8c47d7bb4c4d8d278cPattaramon, 21, is already the mother of two children, and was expecting to use the surrogacy money to provide for her family, educating her children and repaying debts. Now, she has been left with a much more considerable burden, as there is no way she can afford the medical bills necessary to treat the baby, named Gammy. She stated, via the Guardian:

“Why does he have to be abandoned while the other baby has it easy? I feel sorry for him. I don’t know what to do. I chose to have him, not to hurt him. I love him. He was in my tummy for nine months, it’s like my child. I treat him like my other children, never think you are not my child and I don’t care for you, never.”

As you can see below, the BBC is taking the Australian side of the story:

BBC News – Calls for clearer surrogacy rules after Thai Down’s case

Surrogacy campaigners have called for clearer regulation after a Thai woman was left with a Down’s syndrome baby when his parents refused to take him.

The boy, whose twin sister was taken to Australia by the unidentified couple, needs urgent medical care.

6c873f3ee9d0dcdf8abd986690485316The surrogate mother in Thailand says she will raise the boy as her own and an online campaign has raised $185,000 (£110,000) for his treatment.

The case has raised fears Australia could ban international surrogacy.

The baby boy, named Gammy, has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection as well as Down’s syndrome. He is currently receiving urgent treatment in a Thai hospital.

[...]

The surrogate mother tells ABC News: “I love him, he’s like my child now”

Rachel Kunde, the group’s executive director, said she hoped the case would lead to better regulation by the Australian authorities of international surrogacy, rather than an outright ban.

“Our greatest fear is that Australia is going to ban international surrogacy altogether,” she said. “We are hoping that the government will make accessing surrogates in Australia easier.”

Nicola Scott, a British lawyer specialising in fertility issues, says a lack of regulation leaves the child vulnerable because issues such as termination are not discussed in advance.

247215bc651c7c4de89bed649d24d923She says the answer to the problem is an international treaty similar to the Hague Adoption Convention so that parents know what the situation is from the outset.

“Then each country would have its own rules and regulations and the parents, surrogates and children would be protected,” she added.

Then you have the Independent: Thai surrogate mother of ‘abandoned’ Down’s twin Gammy will keep him and says she doesn’t blame Australian couple

Displaying a generosity of spirit in rank contrast to the apparent callousness of the Australian couple who abandoned a Down’s syndrome baby born to a Thai surrogate mother, the young woman has declined offers to adopt him, announcing that she intends to bring him up herself.

The offers – along with donations of, as of last night, more than A$164,000 (£90,780) – were made by well-wishers following publicity about the plight of six-month-old Gammy, who was spurned by his biological parents after Pattharamon Janbua, 21, gave birth to twins. The couple, who have not been named, took Gammy’s healthy twin sister back to Australia.

[...]

Ms Janbua said that, after her experience, she would advise no Thai woman to “get into this business”.

f56e4feed59fce28f7f9b43796f942f3Wow. The Jezebel article mentions the amount of disabled babies that are left abandoned by biological parents who use these surrogates…it is disgusting to think they would leave their children to rot in third world conditions…a hell, and many times leave the mothers who acted as surrogates holding the bag, er baby, if you will.

There has been a lot of noise about this:

Eschaton: Wanker of the Day

Barack Obama

That link will take you to this: It’s Not Easy to Hold the CIA Accountable by Martin Longman | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly

Then look here:

Hullabaloobf78a6469ad6ae635f084bbd28441f4c

He called the torturers patriots…

by digby

… and then lectured the American people that we are not to be “sanctimonious” about it because they had a tough job.

…We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

These “folks” are big on sending messages. What “message” do you suppose that sent? When a patriot has a tough job we can’t expect him to adhere to the law? Or norms? Or even basic morality? Looks like it. Good to know.

I remember reading somewhere during the whole torture debate that the right thing to do was to keep torture officially “illegal” for deniability but do it anyway and then throw yourself on the mercy of the people afterwards telling them that it was necessary to protect them. That way you could keep up the pretense that we were a civilized nation while being allowed  to “take the gloves off.”  For our own good, mind you. Looks like that’s the new SOP.

SOP?

d7845ab5240cabd1c617a8bd6ad72bf4Like I said, I have not fully read those links there. I cannot process it. So I just post these and take it from there.

Another Digby: Hullabaloo

The keepers of the secrets

by digby

Conor Friedersdorf speculates about the power someone like John Brennan must have over a president who has ordered killings overseas:

I am not suggesting that Brennan is blackmailing Obama, or even that he would necessarily retaliate if fired. Still, if Obama is like most people in positions of power, he fires no subordinate without first asking himself, “Could this person damage me?” If Obama is a normal person, rather than an unusually principled person, the answer factors into his decision.

Holy Shit! Obama must have done something huge!

Obama steps up to call Bush-era CIA Torture “Torture,” Despite Legal Implications | Informed Commenta89f66ccf13df22062fe7b35fc6e2679

CNN points out that President Obama’s forthright condemnation of Bush administration-era CIA torture could cause legal problems for Agency employees, and that the Congressional report he was talking about avoided that diction. Obama doesn’t very often any more speak his mind, but in this case he clearly felt strongly enough about the betrayal of constitutional values to do so.

Okay, let’s move on.

Crazy ass right wing shitkickers!  5 Most Demented Right-Wing Moments This Week | Alternet

I can’t believe this nightmare is ongoing: Domestic Abuse Victim Marissa Alexander Faces 60 Years in Prison for Self Defense | Care2 Causes

Ever wonder what it is like at Ground Zero Ebola: Eyewitness: A day at an Ebola treatment unit – Comment – Voices – The Independent

I enter… it could be a scene from a horror film

I wake with a sore throat. It’s almost certainly due to inhaling chlorine fumes from our disinfectant, but since two people working for another NGO tested positive, paranoia has set in, so I take my temperature for the 10th time that morning.
It’s my last day of work, so I’m going to the Ebola treatment unit to say goodbye to the staff and to lend a hand; in the past week, 384843bcfabdc13720f5af37ef0c0291some local staff have resigned or just not turned up. I can’t blame them – they’re scared.

Arrive at the treatment centre. Hear the predictable news of many deaths inside. Get dressed up in protective clothing, with Sara, an MSF doctor. Three hygienists are joining us to move the bodies. We label the body bags before entering. I like to double-bag bodies but now there aren’t enough bags to go round.

After checking that not a millimetre of skin is showing, enter the zone for suspected cases. Empty the buckets of faeces and vomit and say cheerful good mornings to the patients. I spray chlorine solution as I go – we touch nothing without spraying, even though we wear three pairs of gloves.

Enter the zone for confirmed cases. This should house 10 patients, but in fact has 14.

It’s very humid and my tiredness has made the time I can stay in the protective gear shorter. Sweat is dripping into my eyes. I cross the outdoor area, where body bags are lying on the ground. The morgue is full so now we are leaving the dead outside. The burial teams can’t keep up. I turn the corner and find a dead man in the doorway. Looks like he crawled there.

I enter… it could be a scene from a horror film.

Read the rest at the link.

b39d8e023165788e5af0e4f1f63339cdWords….words…..words….World Wide Words Newsletter: 2 Aug 2014

Epilimnion
Have you ever swum in the warm water of a lake in summer and found when treading water that your feet suddenly became uncomfortably cold? If so, you experienced something that limnologists, experts on lakes, describe by the rather splendid and poetic-sounding pair epilimnion and hypolimnion.

When the sun heats a smallish body of water, the topmost layer of water warms up, but because warm water is less dense than cold, it stays on top. That top area is the epilimnion. The cold water below it, which may not warm up much during the summer if the lake is at all deep, is the hypolimnion.

The root of both epilimnion and hypolimnion is the classical Greek limnion, the diminutive of limne, a lake. Limnologist and the subject of study, limnology, are very closely related — they derive from limne. Epi- is Greek for upon or above, while hypo- is from Greek hupo, under.

The epilimnion and hypolimnion are separated by a thinnish layer where the temperature drops quickly. You might guess this is sometimes called the metalimnion (Greek meta-, with or across), though it’s commonly referred to as the thermocline.

Most examples of epilimnion are in scientific contexts, though it also crops up very occasionally in SF:

The brown sphere was spotted after some days by a prowling ameba, quiescent in the eternal winter of the bottom. Down there the temperature was always an even 4°, no matter what the season, but it was unheard of that a spore should be found there while the high epilimnion was still warm and rich in oxygen.

Surface Tension, by James Blish, 1952.

fcd9cbe5021aeec7f29ea1190786d938Now re-read that with your pinky up to your mouth.

Book review: MIND Reviews: I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language – Scientific American

Science Link: Society bloomed with gentler personalities, more feminine faces: Technology boom 50,000 years ago correlated with less testosterone — ScienceDaily

Medieval Link: Is there a Sixth Sense in the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries?

Pretty pictures of fruit link: BibliOdyssey: Swiss Fruit

Old Hollywood: Saturday Morning Cartoons: Dizzy Dishes (1930) | The Black Maria

Classic Hollywood Style: Edith Head, the best sort of designing woman – LA Times

Various links about the 100th Anniversary of World War I:

The Lamps are going out all over Europe | Stephen Liddell0b5d1ac951ceeea283a83ce1ee2be90e

Inside the brothels that served the Western Front: How one First World War soldier found love in the arms of a French sweetheart – World History – World – The Independent

A foreign secretary’s pyrotechnic display of mixed signals that sentenced 800,000 British soldiers and sailors to death – Comment – Voices – The Independent

And the last dumbass, end of post, have a nice day….set of links:

​Chinese Businessman Sells Peaches in Panties Because Butts

​Chinese Businessman Sells Peaches in Panties Because Butts

 

Drunk People Are Causing Quite the Ruckus at the London Zoo

An investigation into parties held at the London Zoo has been launched because apparently it takes an investigation to see that 37e848ee7eb5b5b991c550f74721296aputting people drunk off their ass in the same vicinity as wild animals is a terrible fucking idea.

The Westminster Council is compiling a report on Zoo Lates, a weekly program for adults at the London Zoo that sounds like a hoot and a holler:

Every Friday night in June and July, London Zoo is opening after hours and inviting visitors to explore the wilds of the ultimate urban jungle.

Monkeys go ape and birds of paradise strut their stuff with animal talks, improvised comedy, twisted cabaret, roving performances, pop up bars, street food festival, carousel rides, and approximately 17500 creatures great and small.

Fun, right? And alcohol is served at these events, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot. Sources at the London Zoo have voiced some plenty of concerns after multiple incidents in which some of the more shithoused Lates-goers were a bit too enthusiastic about their love/indifference for animals. These incidents include “a beer being thrown over a tiger, a drunken woman reportedly trying to enter a lion enclosure and a man stripping off and attempting to enter the penguin pool.”

And lastly…

​This Chorus of Baby Goats Would Like a Word With You

I think I will go ahead and tag this post…A My Pet Goat Moment…so, what’s up with you?

3fd429e38f78f3ca5c0332e7b91273c7


Wednesday Reads: Serenity When?

il_fullxfull.565541671_9lyh-001Good Morning

Things are heating up all over, in a literal, political and actual sense.

Meanwhile I feel as if I am stuck inside a glass tube of Vaseline…where I cannot move or see and I feel trapped in a situation were everything is close around me. Yesterday, my mom found out she needs to take insulin shots…she is now diabetic. But the Medicare does not cover her prescription for the shots. It is 300 bucks a month. WTF? I don’t understand this crap at all.

There’s ther stuff going on that I can’t get into now, so just letting you know that things are real shitty here, and I may need to take a break for a few days to get my bearings.

9d334a8fa3274a3df6a3e9e9bf2ec996Now for today’s links…

I don’t know what to make of this headline from the New York Times:

Obama Is Said to Consider Selective Airstrikes on Sunni Militants

President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen rather than an aerial bombardment, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

e91350319bb40c2aab792d8a540788abSuch a campaign, using either drones or fighter jets, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days, until the United States gathers adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad.

Even the most ambitious aerial campaign envisioned by administration officials would be far more limited in scope than the one conducted during the Iraq war, this official said, because of the relatively small number of militants involved, the degree to which they are dispersed throughout militant-controlled parts of Iraq and fears that using bigger bombs would kill Sunni civilians.

It all makes my head hurt.

e96d30047c9c5f4947085064d49e6198But what deserves a laugh is the latest from Glenn Beckistan: Glenn Beck: ‘Liberals, You Were Right,’ We Should Never Have Gone into Iraq | Mediaite

Glenn Beck led off his radio show on Tuesday morning with a stirring monologue about all the ways he believes the left and right can come together to “heal” America. As part of that, Beck suggested that perhaps all Americans can come together to recognize the blunder that was invading and occupying Iraq in 2003 — an act that he now regrets having supported.

After listing the Veterans Affairs Department scandal and the fight against Common Core standards as two ways in which the left and right can unite, Beck asserted that “maybe we could come together now on this nightmare in Iraq.”

He then took a contrite tone and admitted [emphasis ours]:

a090d350dd917b6e633dfe19e03091cfFrom the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t. At the time I believed that the United States was under threat from Saddam Hussein. I really truly believed that Saddam Hussein was funding terrorists. We knew that. He was funding the terrorists in Hamas. We knew that he was giving money. We could track that. We knew he hated us. We knew that without a shadow of a doubt. It wasn’t much or a stretch to believe that he would fund a terror strike against us, especially since he would say that. So I took him at his word.

[...] Now, in spite of the things I felt at the time when we went into war, liberals said: We shouldn’t get involved. We shouldn’t nation-build. And there was no indication the people of Iraq had the will to be free. I thought that was insulting at the time. Everybody wants to be free. They said we couldn’t force freedom on people. Let me lead with my mistakes. You are right. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.

Well, blow me down!

7186393d1bfd14d036ee5764c304f357Here’s another shocking bit of right-wing reactions to scratch your head about…first the news bit: U.S. captures suspected ringleader of 2012 attack in Benghazi | Reuters

The United States said on Tuesday it had captured a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador and ignited a political firestorm in Washington.

President Barack Obama said in a statement he had authorized the operation in Libya on Sunday, in which U.S. special operations forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah. He told an audience later in Pittsburgh that Khatallah was being transported to the United States.

“Since the deadly attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans,” he said in a statement. He said Khatallah would “face the full weight of the American justice system.”

Khatallah’s capture was a victory for Obama, who has been accused by Republicans of playing down the role of al Qaeda in the 2012 attacks for political reasons and being slow to deliver on promises of justice.b927fc4895c9c064bdf334851355cd57

 

Which is all well and good, but as Maddow made clear on her show last night:  U.S. Got the Suspect and ‘Benghazi Central’ Fox News Doesn’t Care? | Mediaite

For the past 21 months in a row, conservative media outlets have kept hammering away at Benghazi, saying the Obama White House covered something up, accusing the president of dredging up other issues to distract from Benghazi, and crying foul that no one has been brought to justice for the attack. Well, today one of the alleged perpetrators of the attack was captured by U.S. special forces, and so Rachel Maddow was absolutely bewildered to see the reaction on conservative media from Drudge Report to “Benghazi Central” Fox News, ranging from either ignoring the big news or furiously spinning it as a negative for the administration.

Maddow reminded viewers that the “all-Benghazi, all-the-time Fox News Channel” is the network that basically started ignoring President Obama‘s speeches and press conferences unless he starts talking about Benghazi. And the reaction on Fox News today to the news was to question the suspicious timing of the capture.

Maddow was amused that “the take on Fox News is that’s not actually news” after all the time and space they’ve devoted to hammering away at Benghazi, and now “they have to make it bad news, they have to make into maybe a scandal itself.”

Damn Fox News.

One more Foxy link for you, only this time it deals with Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton on FOX News with Greta Van Susteren and Brett Baier | Still4Hill

Hillary walked right into the mouth of the dragon and shot her fire extinguisher all over the flames.

In fact I did not expect Greta to be hard on her,  and she was not except that once the record got a little stuck on a Fourth Amendment question.  Later, Greta admitted that despite all prior interviews with Hillary she did feel stressed and later wished she had had more time.  For my money they could have given Greta Brett’s time.

In response to something from Brett, she suggested that people read the unclassified ARB Report.

2844923605445baeeb949f9ef3b62ed5Still4Hill has a link to the report at her blog, go and check it out. There are also video clips of the Greta and Bret interviews there as well…

Another Hillary link: Hillary Clinton notes distance from Obama on Syria rebels | Reuters

Potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out her differences with President Barack Obama on Tuesday over his decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels, as neighboring Iraq struggles to cope with extremist spillover from Syria.

“We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the president,”

Clinton said in a CNN interview.

The former secretary of state said she, along with the then heads of the Pentagon and CIA tried but failed to persuade Obama to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but that the White House resisted.

Clinton said it was not clear whether arming moderates in Syria would have prevented the rise of the al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has swept toward Baghdad aiming to build a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian border.1f774b3e4531d99d0b6b08fe7b6a4105

“It’s very difficult, in retrospect, to say that would have prevented this,” she said. She said it is too soon to tell whether American policy in Syria was a failure.

 

The countdown is began and ended here in Georgia as the BBC is picking up on the story:  Georgia in first US execution since botched attempt

The US state of Georgia is set to execute the first person in the US since a botched lethal injection in Texas in April.

Marcus Wellons, who raped and killed a 15-year-old in 1989, is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday evening.

A last-minute appeal over the source of the drugs is with the US Supreme Court.

Wellons is one of three set to die in the next 24 hours, after nine executions were stayed since one in Oklahoma went wrong seven weeks ago.

de679001e55f03779d2fd45f39445118Officials in Oklahoma halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after he began making noises, and he died of a heart attack less than an hour later.

Like Oklahoma, Georgia refuses to say where they are obtaining drugs for lethal injections, or if they are tested.

Lawyers for Wellons, as well as others on death row, have challenged such secrecy in court.

 

Well, the execution went on as expected: UPDATE: Marcus Wellons has been executed | www.ajc.com

Since I am writing this post only a few minutes after his death has been confirmed I will update this story in the comments below.

One thing all these stories have threaded together is a subject of hard news…Why Audiences Hate Hard News—And Love Pretending Otherwise – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic

You may not realize this, but we can see you. Yes, you. The human reading this article. We have analytics that tells us roughly where you are, what site you’ve just arrived from, how long you stay, how far you read, where you hop to next. We’ve got eyeballs on your eyeballs.3df8e0446c3c42d7ee36e40dcaba96a0

Why is it so important that digital news organizations track which articles you’re reading on our websites? The obvious answer is that it teaches us what you’re interested in. The less-obvious, but equally true, answer is that it teaches you what you’re interested in.

If we merely asked what you wanted, without measuring what you wanted, you’d just keep lying to us—and to yourself.

Here’s what I mean by lying. This year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism asked thousands of people around the world what sort of news was most important to them. The graph below shows the responses from Americans. International news crushed celebrity and “fun” news by a margin of two-to-one. Economic and political news finished even higher.

It is an interesting thing…as far as what is most important compared to what the people actually read.

Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.

31907593da272ba27746cd5b018e949aAudiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes. At the Aspen Ideas Festival last year, Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for Al Jazeera America, shared survey data suggesting that 40 to 50 million people were desperate for in-depth and original TV journalism. Nine months later, it averaged 10,000 viewers per hour—1.08 percent of Fox News’ audience and 3.7 percent of CNN. AJAM, built for an audience of vegetarians, is stuck with a broccoli stand in a candy shop.

The culprit isn’t Millennials, or Facebook, or analytics software like Chartbeat. The problem is our brains. The more attention-starved we feel, the more we thirst for stimuli that are familiar. We like ice cream when we’re sad, old songs when we’re tired, and easy listicles when we’re busy and ego-depleted. The Internet shorthand for this fact is “cat pictures.” Psychologists prefer the term fluency. Fluency isn’t how we think: It’s how we feel while we’re thinking. We prefer thoughts that come easily: Faces that are symmetrical, colors that are clear, and sentences with parallelisms. In this light, there are two problems with hard news: It’s hard and it’s new. (Parallelism!)

 

63de3f122b93c22f070d5c889ce23d52Okay that is taking some choice paragraphs here and there…just go and “read” the whole thing at the link. It has graphs and list too.

Since we are talking about people who lie about reading news stories, what about something dealing with handwriting. What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades – NYTimes.com

Does handwriting matter?

Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.

But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

b9438217088e3382bb42b00ef2dfc63d“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.”

Could there be a connection be handwriting, news reading habits and education development?

A 2012 study led by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, lent support to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again.

The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.

By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.

Dr. James attributes the differences to the messiness inherent in free-form handwriting: Not only must we first plan and execute the action in a way that is not required when we have a traceable outline, but we are also likely to produce a result that is highly variable.

That variability may itself be a learning tool. “When a kid produces a messy letter,” Dr. James said, “that might help him learn it.”

Finally, the last “news read” I have for you today could fall in the “fun” category. Stamp sells for record $9.5 million in New York

David Redden, Sotheby's Vice Chairman, holds the British Guyana One-Cent Magenta after it sold for USD$ 9,480,000 (with buyers' premium) at Sotheby's June 17, 2014 in New York

Stan Honda/AFP

David Redden, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman, holds the British Guyana One-Cent Magenta after it sold for USD$ 9,480,000 (with buyers’ premium) at Sotheby’s June 17, 2014 in New York

An incredibly rare 19th century postage stamp, a tiny one-cent magenta from British colonial Guyana, sold for $9.5 million in New York on Tuesday, setting a new world record.

Bidding began at $4.5 million and it took just two minutes to sell the stamp to an anonymous bidder on the phone, although the auction house Sotheby’s had valued the tiny specimen of British colonial memorabilia at $10-20 million.

09664cc10b3bb4c3414e849cae7d1d1f“With the premium the stamp has just sold for approximately $9.5 million, which means it has set a new world record price for a stamp,” David Redden, Sotheby’s director of special projects, told a packed room in New York.

Can you believe it? 9.5 million dollars? Wow…

So what “candy” are you reading about today?

Although I know most of you here read “vegetables” all day long.


Sunday Reads: Faults, Fashions and Failures

René Gruau (February 4, 1909 - March 31, 2004)

René Gruau (February 4, 1909 – March 31, 2004)

Good Morning

I hope that those of you trapped beneath the ice and snow, are safe and doing fine. Some of the pictures out of Texas are amazing. I have a house full of munchkins as I write this post (Saturday night) and it is wonderful to hear laughter from my daughter’s room.

So, with that in mind, here is your post for this cold December morning. (Written by a distracted mum, so mind the awkwardness.)

By the way, all the illustrations are by René Gruau (February 4, 1909 – March 31, 2004)

db61c4c953a98b16cf6640008fbe4f07…a renowned fashion illustrator whose exaggerated portrayal of fashion design through painting has had a lasting effect on the fashion industry . Because of Gruau’s inherent skills and creativity, contributed to a change in the entire fashion industry through the new pictures that represented the already popular designs created by designers in the industry. The benefits, including economic stimulation and enhancement of advertising are still vividly presented in the industry today via a new way of fashion illustration, fashion photography. Gruau became one of the best known and favorite artists of the haute couture world during the 1940s and 50s working with Femina, Marie-Claire, L’Officiel, L’Album Du Figaro and an assortment of “high-style” magazines.[3] Gruau’s artwork is recognized and commended internationally in some of Paris and Italy’s most prestigious art museums including the Louvre in Paris and the blank in Italy. in addition to his international fame and recognition, “Gruau’s artwork is known for its timeless and enduring style”.[3]

You can find many more of these beautiful fashion illustrations here: RENE GRUAU

I will have more fashion links later in the post, now let’s get to some “newsy” links.

Fur lined coat by Christian Dior, illustrated by Rene Gruau, Sept. 1947

Fur lined coat by Christian Dior, illustrated by Rene Gruau, Sept. 1947

There is some disturbing policy news out of Japan, Japan’s controversial new state secrets law condemned as ‘the largest ever threat to democracy in postwar Japan’ by Nobel academics | The Raw Story

Japan’s controversial new state secrets law was condemned Saturday as “the largest ever threat to democracy in postwar Japan” by a group of academics, including two Nobel prize winners, reports said.

On Friday Japan’s parliament adopted a new law handing out stiffer penalties for those who spill state secrets, despite a public outcry over fears the legislation was draconian and would impinge on press freedom and the public’s right to know.

In a strongly worded attack on the new law, a group of 31 academics, including Nobel Prize winners Toshihide Maskawa and Hideki Shirakawa, accused the Japanese government of threatening “the fundamental human rights and pacifist principles” established by the country’s constitution.

The controversial bill, proposed by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was approved by the Senate on Friday evening, a few days after it was passed in the lower house.

The Senate vote in favour was expected as the coalition government led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) holds a majority of seats there.

The opposition raised motions to stop the law but each move was rejected by the LDP members and their allies.

ecbfca7e86759bf5f3aec18f230d6af0 René Gruau February 4, 1909 - March 31, 2004Sounds like Japan has their own form of “GOP” like assholes in control, and they are making a mess of things.

The scholars’ statement — which Kyodo said was also endorsed by a further 3,150 academics — condemned the country’s ruling bloc of behaving in a way that was “reminiscent of the prewar government that wrested away freedom of thought and freedom of the press” by pushing the law through both Japan’s legislative chambers.

Shirakawa was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2000 while Maskawa won the prestigious award for physics in 2008. The Kyodo report did not name any of the other academics who signed the statement.

The law allows government ministers to designate as a state secret information related to defence, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism.

Abe has argued that the measure is necessary to plug a notoriously leaky government machine, which prevents its chief ally the United States from sharing intelligence.

But critics say the categories are so vague that almost anything could fit the definition. They worry that information that is embarrassing to governing politicians or to their patrons could easily be hidden from public view.

They point to the way that Tokyo withheld news of the severity of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011, and say a state that already operates largely behind closed doors will become even more secretive.

That problem is exacerbated by a relatively weak institutional press.

Oh yeah, weak press? Hmmm, that does sound familiar. But ours is weak because of who “sponsors” it…

6370cad63893b416dc8e81fcfb81f373 René Gruau February 4, 1909 - March 31, 2004Those convicted of leaking “state secrets” could get long prison terms, up to ten years…and anyone encouraging someone to spill the beans…they could get up to five years in prison, the language so vague….it may even include journalist and lawyers.

And talking about Japan: Largest Fault Slip Ever Recorded Generated Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that unleashed the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan was triggered by the largest fault slip ever recorded, the journal Science reported Thursday.

By measuring the frictional heat produced by the fault slip during the earthquake, researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz and other organizations found that friction along the Tohoku fault was remarkably low when the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011.

“The Tohoku fault is more slippery than anyone expected,” said Emily Brodsky, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz. Brodsky acted as co-author for three papers on the Tohoku earthquake published in the journal Science this week.

The scientist say the fault is slippery as a banana peel.

Researcher Patrick Fulton, first author of the paper focusing on temperature measurements, concurred.

“The large slip at shallow depths contributed to the tsunami that caused so much damage in Japan. Usually, these earthquakes don’t rupture all the way to the surface,” he said.

Fulton said that the low resistance to slip along the Tohoku fault can help explain the staggering 165-foot displacement, or movement, that occurred to the seafloor during the earthquake. That low friction, he said, was exacerbated by an abundance of weak, slippery clay material in the fault zone.

Read more at the link…it is an interesting read.

69d44649ebc5a5ff7e7ab476273125eb René Gruau February 4, 1909 - March 31, 2004Back at home, this little tidbit of news due to an asshole out of California: Global Hawk Air Force Budget Cuts – Business Insider

A $114 million contract to build three more Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft was announced back in September, despite the Air Force not even wanting them.

Facing budget cuts and wanting to save some cash (about $2.5 billion over five years), the Air Force was planning to stop buying the pricey — and rather unreliable — drones and mothball the remainder of the fleet in favor of the battle-tested and accomplished U2 spy plane.

“The Block 30 [Global Hawk aircraft] is not operationally effective,” the Pentagon’s top testing official had declared in a blunt May 2011 report, according to The Center for Public Integrity.

But the Pentagon was no match for forces on Capitol Hill, as an article written by W.J. Hennigan in the Los Angeles Times points out:

“Northrop responded sharply, saying the U-2 “places pilots in danger, has limited flight duration and provides limited sensor capacity.”

In the end, the Air Force didn’t win that skirmish. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), whose congressional district includes Palmdale, jumped in to rescue the project. Congress restored the funding, and last month Northrop received a $114-million contract to build three more drones, saving thousands of jobs.”

e92d7e333fae1aebcb25d52bf5912709Go and read all the money that was put into military programs the military did not want. And then…read this op/ed from the LA Times: The saddest Christmas wish lists ever

I was standing in line at the post office when a sign caught my eye: “Operation Santa 2013.” According to the poster, “answering letters to Santa has been a holiday custom for over 100 years.” Those who wanted to participate could choose one of the many letters to Santa received by the post office and write back as Santa, sending the gift requested.

How cute, I thought. Kids request presents from “Santa” and they actually arrive.

I remember walking to the mailbox with my own letters to Santa as a child. One of my mother’s favorite Christmas stories was how, when I was 4, I mistakenly threw my peanut butter sandwich into the mailbox instead of my letter. Santa brought me a whole jar of peanut butter that year.

I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to write letters to Santa. Now they are too old for Santa Claus and I miss him, so Operation Santa seemed perfect for me.

Bright and early on Dec. 3, the first day the program got underway, I drove to the main Los Angeles post office at Gage and Central to choose my letter. I walked into a large, decorated room where Cleo, the “elf in charge,” was waiting. I expected letters full of misspelled words and little-kid grammar, asking for Legos and Barbies, skateboards and My Little Pony. I knew there’d be those who asked for phones or IPads or Xboxes, or other things out of my price range, but I figured I could find some little boy who still wanted a fire engine.

What I found were pleas from parents. A mother out of work said her family would eat, but there wouldn’t be any presents. A dad wrote that his kids needed school supplies. Parents with two kids, three kids, maybe more, were hoping for help with what they couldn’t provide. A dad just out of prison wanted to make Christmas special for the kids he hadn’t seen for so long. A disabled grandmother asked for a church dress for her granddaughter.

I was overwhelmed. Many of the letters — even the ones from kids — asked for groceries and shoes, clothing and shampoo. One child wrote: “Please bring my mommy some food. She’s been good this year.”

2644c4a9d02166b511a38f2f881886f0The rest is heartbreaking….especially for me, because my good friend Jessica is one of those mommas who is having a difficult time this year getting a few gifts for her two boys. Seeing her on Facebook looking for “barter or trade” items makes me so sad.

Elf Cleo sat beside me at the table checking in a new batch of letters. She told me 90% of the Santa requests sent to the post office never get answered. Many are written at homeless shelters and city food banks and after-school programs. (I found one letter in which a young teenager asked for gifts for the shelter workers.) Cleo said that every once in a while a family’s gift comes back unopened, marked address unknown. She wonders: Have they moved into a shelter? A car? Onto the street?

I read a lot of letters, and I felt worse and worse. I didn’t know how to choose. The single dad who needed diapers? The 17-year-old asking for a backpack for her little sister? I believe in holiday magic, but there just didn’t seem to be enough of it to go around.

After you read the rest of that op/ed, take a look at this: What If Your Income Grew As Fast As the 1 Percent’s? Try Our Calculator | Mother Jones

The richest 1 percent of Americans have seen their average income jump more than 270 percent over the past five decades. Meanwhile, the average income of the least wealthy 90 percent of Americans grew an anemic 22 percent during that time. (Those figures are based on inflation-adjusted real dollars.)

So how much would you be earning today if the phenomenal income growth at the very top of the income scale had trickled down to most Americans? Use this calculator to find out.

355e0d9096b5052db00f789a294db74eAll you crime newsy people will eat up this next juicy link: Why Couldn’t Worst Crime Lab Employee Get Fired? — Daily Intelligencer

That’s the question an exhaustive new report on a particularly incompetent lab worker at the office of New York’s medical examiner. Over two years, the office has been looking into how she mislabeled evidence (mixing up suspect and victim’s names), ignored or missed DNA samples, failed to test evidence, and couldn’t understand basic concepts for testimony. But even though her supervisors knew about “myriad failures,” they didn’t fire her. The only news in this story that instills confidence in the city’s forensics lab: She left on her own in 2011.

Which is connected to a New York Times story here: The City Is Not Handling Its DNA Evidence Too Well

and here: Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence

Alright, now for the fashion links. Orchid…that is the new hot color for 2014! Actually it is officially called “Radiant Orchid” but that link goes to an AP article so you will need to read about the “creativity” of the color purple on your own.

Rene Gruau Les Girls

Rene Gruau Les Girls

Well, for me…talking creativity in fashion? How about iconic? Marilyn Monroe’s Magician–the One and Only Travilla | GlamAmor

Whenever I want to illustrate the power of costume design, the person I always turn to is the legendary William (“Billy”) Travilla.  I can usually convince any crowd with two simple words:  Marilyn Monroe.  As of 1952, Travilla was responsible for her fashion on film, which included iconic work in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and The Seven Year Itch (1955).  He designed for her offscreen as well.  In short, as the world continues to obsess over the style of Marilyn Monroe, we are all also celebrating the talent of Travilla.

Though perhaps best known for his work in the 1950s, his career stretched from film in the 1940s to television of the 1980s where he helped shape the style of the decade in shows such as Dallas and KnotsLanding. As a result, there is a nearly endless list of celebrities who absolutely adored him.  Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall, Loretta Young, Ann-Margret, Faye Dunaway, Debbie Reynolds, Joanne Woodward, Mitzi Gaynor, Diahann Carrol, Sharon Tate…this is only the beginning.  As biographer and Travilla Foundation founder Kimberley Ashley observes, “Many celebrities of the golden era of Hollywood depended upon the Travilla touch for their career success.  He touched their lives with his silver screen alchemy.”

Oooo, love that quote, those last three words drip with perfect illusion. Just go to GlamAmor blog and read the rest. Enjoy it!

bf3645c296d1b500010e0fd32ee87db7Then take a look at this: 17 Times The Fashion Was The Best Part Of The Movie

Forget the plot — some movies are best remembered for the costumes.

At least, that’s how we feel. We appreciate a well-directed film with good cinematography as much as the next film buffs, but some movies capture a style era so perfectly, we can’t help but leave inspired to emulate the characters. Below, we’ve rounded the films with fashion we’ll never forget… even if we can’t remember anything else about them.

And what is fashion without scent? A Whiff on the Wild Side: Confessions of a Vintage Perfume Addict That is an excerpt of a book on perfumes, it even has some of the reviews of old vintage scents.  Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume: Barbara Herman

Another book link for you, this time a discussion of an anthology: Why Writers Love New York City (and Then Leave It) – Marie-Helene Westgate – The Atlantic

In the new anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, contributors share the experience of moving to New York in pursuit of the writing life. In essay after essay, writers describe their experiences moving to New York from Long Island, New Jersey, California, and overseas. Anyone from anywhere can come to New York City in pursuit of fame, riches, and romance, and as a result, Goodbye to All That captures New York’s uniquely nuanced, overlapping landscape of cultures and geographies that for millions feels at once deeply personal and communal.

But while something deeper also reveals itself in the pages: Some thread of pure accident runs through the story of each writer’s dream of making it in the big city.

9724a76138f5e2711314732765c7459fAfter you read that interview piece, if the book seems interesting, find it here: Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York: Sari Botton

Did you know that the Neanderthals used to decorate their caves? Well, not in the way we do…but: New evidence suggests Neanderthals organized their living spaces

Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins.

The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.

“There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. “But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space.”

Go figure.

5d68e77fac27dec4a1d7efbc5fe851e7And if that does not make you think twice about things and mans place in the animal kingdom, maybe this will: Honeybees Can Recognize Individual Human Faces: Scientific American

The ability to tell individual faces apart was long thought to be exclusive to large-brained mammals. But in recent years a number of studies have shown that, in fact, some wasps can facially recognize one another. And honeybees can learn human faces, too. In their article in the December issue of Scientific American, biologists Elizabeth Tibbetts of the University of Michigan and Adrian Dyer of RMIT University in Melbourne describe these findings and what they reveal about the neural requirements for seemingly complex cognitive tasks.

Shit. They can learn human faces? Damn, does that mean that the military could train honeybees to become assassins? Think about it. Mercenary “Killer Bees” that are trained to go after a specific target’s face. Hey, that would make a great Roland Emmerich movie eh?

The last link for you today is a follow-up on a story from long ago. How An Abused Lion, Tiger And Bear Became An Unlikely Family (PHOTOS)

Baloo the bear, Leo the lion, and Shere Khan the tiger (all three known as BLT) were brought together as 2-month-old cubs and have grown up as a family.

The trio was originally owned by a drug dealer who didn’t properly care for them, leading to neglect, poor health and severe injuries.

In 2001, Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit that cares for animals in need, came to the rescue, and took them to Locust Grove, Georgia, where they were treated for injuries.

blt

“We could have separated them,” Diane Smith, assistant director of the Noah’s Ark Zoo told the Telegraph. “But since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together.”

I wrote about these three buddies when I started blogging for Sky Dancing years ago. Well, it turns out the fence around their little home need some improvements.

…the government passed new federal regulations requiring big cat enclosures to have 16 foot fences put up, which would take effect in October of this year. Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan’s fence was only 8 feet high. If these regulations weren’t met, the three animals would have to split up.

Rebuilding the fence would cost $489,000.

With October slowly approaching, The Sanctuary entered a contest to help raise money. On August 15, CrowdRise, an online fundraising site, teamed up with RYOT, a social news platform to announce a challenge called #STARTARYOT, according to ncronline.com. They offered $75,000 to the nonprofit that raised the most money in five weeks.

On Oct. 10, they had announced that Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary had won. They even received an extra $10,000 for attracting the most unique visitors during the last week of the challenge.

Additionally, they were able to raise $362,269 through crowd-funding. The installment company even agreed to discount the price of the new fence.

And once more, all is right in the BLT-land.

blt

Innit that great! There are lots of more photos at the link…go see the three amigos together. So dang cute!

That is my post for today. Stay warm and happy!


Thursday Reads

reading-in-the-garden Nikolay Bodanov Belsky

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:

President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.

President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.

Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.

After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin

A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”

A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.

Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:

Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.

I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.

Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…

You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.

I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.

In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.

The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.

While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….

Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.

Read more at the NYT link.

And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.

(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”

Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.

In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.

An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.

Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.

The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.

The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.

Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:

The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.

Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.

Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning  CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:

Barbara Starr ‏@barbarastarrcnn2h

@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”

I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.

Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!


Lazy Sunday Afternoon: “Stuff” Continued

5892751485_2a14e86ff2_oGood Afternoon

<———— Look at that face?

Doesn’t this frog have a skeptical look about him…or maybe it is more of a look that says…don’t mess with me man! Don’t you bullshit me man.

Whatever it is, I always thought this “Iconographia Zoologica”  illustration of a Hyla arborea (Tree Frog from Suriname, 1772) had so much character…and attitude.  I love that expression!

When I look at this present day photograph of the little green dude below…I see that same look I admired so much from the Dutch illustration drawn 241 years ago.

Don’t you see the similarities echoing back to you through the eyes?

From Andrew Sullivan’s Face Of The Day « The Dish

Peter_Lipton_2

This little guy has reason to keep his head down:

Amsterdam-based photographer Peter Lipton’s recent project is based around a research and conservation program at the Catholic University of Quito that was created in 2005 to address the growing number of endangered amphibians due to the country’s increases in logging, oil exploration, agriculture and climate change. Named ‘Balsa de los sapos’—Spanish for ‘Life raft of the frogs’—the program aims to collect, reproduce, and return endangered amphibians to their natural habitat. Lipton creates an exquisite showcase of these unique creatures, many of which are sadly the last known specimens.

I guess you could say I am starting this post off on a reflective note? These little amphibians are not the only species that have come to the few remaining of their kind. From the BBC News – Zoo seeks mate for last surviving ‘gorgeously ugly’ fish

cichlid

Male mangarahara cichlids are distinguished from the females by their size and flowing fins

I don’t know, he ain’t so bad looking.

London Zoo is appealing to fish keepers to try to find a mate for a critically endangered, tropical species.

The Mangarahara cichlid is extinct in the wild but the three in captivity are all male.

The Zoo, which describes the fish as “gorgeously ugly”, is hoping to start a conservation programme if a fit female can be found for the captive males.

And with two of the males now 12 years old, the quest is said to be extremely urgent.

“I think there’s probably a very slim to no chance of this fish surviving” – Brian Zimmerman, London Zoo

These cichlids were named after the Mangarahara river in Madagascar where they were first found.

The construction of dams on the river caused the streams they lived in to dry up and the fish is now believed to be extinct in its natural habitat.

There are two males in captivity at London Zoo and another in Berlin. There had been a female in captivity at the German zoo but attempts to breed ended in disaster when the male killed her.

Which Zimmerman says is a common thing with cichlids…..well, that is one hell of a shame. This guy is going out with a dramatic twist, the only female of your species left in the world…and you kill her.

I’ve got one more fish tale to tell you, this is real fascinating: Navy dolphins discover rare old torpedo off Calif. coast near Coronado | McClatchy

In the ocean off Coronado, a Navy team has discovered a relic worthy of display in a military museum: a torpedo of the kind deployed in the late 19th century, considered a technological marvel in its day.

But don’t look for the primary discoverers to get a promotion or an invitation to meet the admirals at the Pentagon – although they might get an extra fish for dinner or maybe a pat on the snout.

The so-called Howell torpedo was discovered by bottlenose dolphins being trained by the Navy to find undersea objects, including mines, that not even billion-dollar technology can detect.

“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man,” Braden Duryee, an official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific said after the surprising discovery.

While not as well known as the Gatling gun and the Sherman tank, the Howell torpedo was hailed as a breakthrough when the U.S. was in heavy competition for dominance on the high seas. It was the first torpedo that could truly follow a track without leaving a wake and then smash a target, according to Navy officials.

Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before a rival copied and surpassed the Howell’s capability.

This only makes me think that somewhere out there…the incredible Mr. Limpet is guiding our Navy ships and that Obama’s drones are actually flown by Orville the albatross…

Anyway, be sure to read more about the Howell torpedo at the McClatchy link above. For other Civil War weapons that did not perform as well as the Howell torpedo, check this blog post out that list: 10 Strange Civil War Weapons (My favorite is the Harmonica Pistol)

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An attempt to create a multi-shot pistol by adding a horizontal magazine—some variations held up to 10 percussion cap or pinfire cartridges—the harmonica gun was probably invented and certainly patented by a Frenchman, J. Jarre of Paris, between 1859-1862. No musical instruments were involved. The name came from the shape of the magazine, and the weapon was also called the “slide gun.” An early manufacturer in the US was Jonathan Browning, father of firearms designer John Moses Browning. While looking like the sort of weapon a steampunk James Bond might carry, the harmonica gun proved too impractical for wide adoption. The user had to manually adjust the sliding magazine to center each cartridge under the hammer for every shot. Like VHS vs. Betamax, the much easier and faster shooting revolver finally won the day. The mechanism wasn’t limited to pistols—famed Texas Senator Sam Houston owned a percussion rifle (by Henry Gross) using a harmonica slide which is on display at the National Museum of American History.

Here is another list of things for you, take a look at this infographic:   The 13 Worst Jobs of the Last 2,000 Years

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Click on the image to see the larger graphic.

Now that will bring me to some articles dealing with history, these are fabulous! And since we have some nasty weather here in Banjoville, I am going to give them to you in link dump fashion…just in case the storms wreak havoc with my DSL service.

Revealed: Eerie new images show forgotten French apartment that was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched for 70 years

Eerie new images have emerged of a French apartment abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched in the seven decades since.

Click here to view inside the Paris apartment

Other than a thick layer of dust covering the furniture, the room looks exactly as it would have done 70 years ago when its occupants fled Paris for the south of France as the Second World War erupted in Europe.

With Germany devising the Fall Gelb – a military sub-campaign later known as the Manstein Plan, with an objective conquering Northern France – the owner of the chic apartment decided that leaving the capital was the only way she could guarantee her safety.

The flat’s titleholder, a woman known only as Mrs De Florian, never returned to the apartment and never rented it out. Its existence only came to light in 2010, when Mrs De Florian died without issue at the age of 91 and experts were brought in to value the property.

The flat, which is close to the Pigalle red-light district in Paris’ 9th Arrondissement, was said to be like a “stumbling in to the castle of Sleeping Beauty” by one expert, as a room full of artworks and beautiful furniture was discovered behind its long-locked font door.

Plague Helped End Roman Empire, DNA From Medieval Graveyard Suggests

Plague is a fatal disease so infamous that it has become synonymous with any dangerous, widespread contagion. It was linked to one of the first known examples of biological warfare, when Mongols catapulted plague victims into cities.

The bacterium that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, has been linked with at least two of the most devastating pandemics in recorded history. One, the Great Plague, which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries, included the infamous epidemic known as the Black Death, which may have killed nearly two-thirds of Europe in the mid-1300s. Another, the Modern Plague, struck around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning in China in the mid-1800s and spreading to Africa, the Americas, Australia, Europe and other parts of Asia.

Although past studies confirmed this germ was linked with both of these catastrophes, much controversy existed as to whether it also caused the Justinianic Plague of the sixth to eighth centuries. This pandemic, named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, killed more than 100 million people. Some historians have suggested it contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.

To help solve this mystery, scientists investigated ancient DNA from the teeth of 19 different sixth-century skeletons from a medieval graveyard in Bavaria, Germany, of people who apparently succumbed to the Justinianic Plague.

They unambiguously found the plague bacterium Y. pestis there.

More at the link, go read it!

In other DNA news affecting history: Minoans Came From Europe, Not North Africa, Ancient DNA Suggests

When the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans discovered the 4,000-year-old Palace of Minos on Crete in 1900, he saw the vestiges of a long-lost civilization whose artefacts set it apart from later Bronze-Age Greeks. The Minoans, as Evans named them, were refugees from Northern Egypt who had been expelled by invaders from the South about 5,000 years ago, he claimed.

Modern archaeologists have questioned that version of events, and now ancient DNA recovered from Cretan caves suggests that the Minoan civilization emerged from the early farmers who settled the island thousands of years earlier.

As with the Justinianic Plague article, this one is detailed…so go take a look at the article.

Here is another thing you can spend some time on: 38,000 historical maps at DPLA | History News Network

More than three decades ago, David Rumsey began building a map collection. By the mid-90s he had thousands and thousands of maps to call his own — and his alone. He wanted to share them with the public.

He could have donated them to the Library of Congress, but Rumsey had even bigger ideas: the Internet. “With (some) institutions, the access you can get is not nearly as much as the Internet might provide,” Rumsey told Wired more than a decade ago. “I realized I could reach a much larger audience with the Internet.”

Bit by bit, Rumsey digitized his collection — up to 38,000 maps and other items — along the way developing software that made it easier for people to explore the maps and 3D objects such as globes online. Today, the Digital Public Library of America announced that Rumsey’s collection would now be available through the DPLA portal placing the maps into the deeper and broader context of the DPLA’s other holdings…

Enjoy that site…David Rumsey Historical Map Collection | Collection History

if charlie parker was a gunslinger,there’d be a whole lot of dead copycats: Scenes from The Wild West #14

The Sundance Kid and Etta Place

Bad ass.

These next few links are not about history…specifically.

Mental Baggage: Abandoned Suitcases From an Insane Asylum

Old suitcase from Willard Psychiatric Center in New York

Looking at old, abandoned belongings can be quite a moving experience, and if there’s a sad history attached to the objects, we might well feel a measure of melancholy. Still, at the same time, we’re all fascinated by the lives of others – especially if their stories and experiences are very different to our own. That’s why these suitcases, which once belonged to patients at the Willard Psychiatric Center, New York, make such captivating photographs.

Secrets of the Criminal Mind: Scientific American

What is science revealing about the nature of the criminal mind? Adrian Raine, a professor at the university of Pennsylvania, is an expert in the expanding field of “neurocriminology.” He has written The Anatomy of Violence, a sweeping account of crime’s biological roots, including genetics, neuro-anatomy and environmental toxins like lead. He spoke with Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

Reservoir deep under Ontario holds billion-year-old water

Scientists working 2.4 kilometres below Earth’s surface in a Canadian mine have tapped a source of water that has remained isolated for at least a billion years. The researchers say they do not yet know whether anything has been living in it all this time, but the water contains high levels of methane and hydrogen — the right stuff to support life.

Kid Safety Manual Will Make You Never Want to Go Outside Again

The 1950s were apparently a terrifying time to be a child. If a train wasn’t coming out of nowhere to decapitate you, a seemingly harmless and endlessly fun game of “hide in a pile of leaves!”* ended when you were run over by city workers.

Buzzfeed’s Copyranter got a hold of this amazing manual, and you have to see the whole thing. Titled “It’s Great to Be Alive!”, it was written by someone who knew how truly careless children can be. I’d encourage you to print it out and pass it around at your local elementary school but STRANGER DANGER. (Actually, that one is just good advice.)

And if we are talking about scaring the bejeebeez outta kids, check this out: 11 Terrifying Images of Old Soviet Playgrounds | Mental Floss

Actually, they’re playgrounds from the former Soviet Union, where people were good at making a lot of things — tanks, rifles, factories to make tanks and rifles — but cheerful playground statuary clearly wasn’t one of them.

Go to the link to see the freaky pictures.

From childhood to growing old: 100 Years is Enough For Me, Pal by Tom Purcell

Here’s one potential advance in science that has me worried: human beings may eventually live a really long time.

According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive from 120 to 500 years.

97045 600 100 Years is Enough For Me, Pal cartoons

Which prompts an important question: Do we really want to live that long?

We move on to the writing/words part of the post…that is links to do with language written and spoken.

VQR » Blog » Cameron’s Books and the Used Magazine Trade

When I needed an article from the February 1963 issue of the defunct travel magazine Holiday, I never questioned where to search for it. I picked up the phone and dialed. “Cameron’s,” said the voice on the other end.

Always afraid of saying something stupid and offending the store’s gruff owner, Jeff Frase, I described the item I needed in as few words as possible. In his dry, distant growl, Frase said, “One minute. Let me check.” He sounded annoyed. He put down the phone. When he returned moments later, he said, “Yeah, we have it.” How much? “Five dollars.”

Back in its heyday, big names wrote for Holiday: Steinbeck, Kerouac, Hemingway, Michener. Holiday was the magazine that commissioned E. B. White’s famous 7,500-word essay, “Here Is New York,” in 1948, an essay later published as a best-selling book. It still stands as some of the best prose on one of the world’s most written-about cities.

Five dollars was a bargain. I asked if I could pick up the magazine on Saturday since I worked all week. Frase said, “It’ll be under the counter in the hold box, under your name.”

Go read about a place that will one day become as extinct as that ugly fish you read about at the beginning of this post…

Founded by a stamp collector named Robert Cameron in 1938, Cameron’s Books and Magazines is Portland, Oregon’s oldest used bookstore, and it’s one of the largest vintage magazine dealers in America. Cameron’s might be the largest. When asked for the store’s size, Frase said, “Oh, I don’t know. We could eyeball it, but—” He squinted and leaned forward against the counter. “Maybe forty to eighty foot wide at least, about twice that deep. That’s just the front room. There’s the upstairs.” He waved a finger overhead, tracing the seam where the ceiling meets the south wall. A long passage runs there, its dusty wooden boards lined with mid-century crime, sci-fi, and romance mass markets. He pointed to the room behind him. “And then there’s the magazines.”

This next link is about an author: Her editor published her work for several years before realizing she wasn’t a man | Appalachian History

Tennessee author Mary Noailles Murfree (1850-1922), better known as Charles Egbert Craddock, was born in Murfreesboro, TN. For fifteen years she spent her summers in the Tennessee mountains among the people of whom she writes.

About that typing keyboard: The Lies You’ve Been Told About the Origin of the QWERTY Keyboard -The QWERTY configuration for typewriters can be traced, actually, to the telegraph.

With all the fuss lately over the IRS and AP scandals, it seems this next bit of information will come in handy: History and origin of the phrase: Spill the beans World Wide Words Newsletter: 18 May 2013

Q From Martin Schell: An Indonesian friend fluent in English asked me what spill the beans means and how it originated. It’s easy to understand spill as revealing a secret, but why beans?

A The key word is indeed spill, which has always had a negative aura about it. In Old English it meant to kill and in the twelfth century to shed blood (which is why we still have the fixed phrase to spill blood). By the fourteenth century it had softened to mean causing damage or waste, from which evolved the specific idea of letting a liquid accidentally escape from a container. Much later it took on a figurative sense of being thrown out of a moving vehicle.

Spill the beans starts to appear in the US early in the twentieth century. In its first decade it varied in its meaning and settled on our current one only in the 1920s.

Early examples are in reports of horse racing. This is the first example that I’ve so far come across:

KINGSTELLE SPILLED THE BEANS
Everyone fancied that the fifth race was a two-horse one between Nearest and Audiphone, who were held at 4 to 5 and 8 to 5 respectively. Kingstelle, a 10-to-1 shot, broke it up. She laid away from the pace and came along in the stretch, and won, handily, a real nice race.

St Louis Republic (St Louis, Missouri), 6 May 1903.

Since the horse did better than expected, this might seem to challenge the idea of a spill being a bad thing, but the headline writer is saying that expectations have been upset, a figurative extension of spill. In the following years the idiom spread beyond racetracks, by 1908 being used of boxing and by 1910 of baseball. In that game it came to mean a blunder that leads to defeat:

In the eighth it looked like Vernon surely would overcome the Seals’ lead and win the game, but some boneheaded base running and poor judgment on the coaching lines spilled the beans.

Los Angeles Herald, 3 Jun. 1910.

An article in the Tacoma Times in March 1913 defines it like this: “If we descend to the vulgar language of the street … ‘Spilling the beans’ has much the same meaning as ‘upsetting the apple cart.’” Being considered slang may explain why it took some time to become mainstream. Most appearances were confined to the sports pages, which had a licence to adopt language that was considered unsuitable for other parts of the paper.

So the sports section could get away with a little more vulgarity, hmmmm... you remember that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski backed David Ortiz when Ortiz told the Red Sox crowd: “This is our fucking city and no body is going to dictate our freedom.” Anyway, sports wasn’t the only area that had a use for the phrase “spilling the beans.”

Politics being a rough old game, it’s in news reports of events in that domain that we start to see a broader public use of the idiom. It was widely publicised in a comment from a witness during a famous court case of January 1914 about corruption and this seems to have broken the implicit ban on its use outside sport.

To answer the original question — if you can still remember what it was — there doesn’t seem to be anything special about beans and no good reason why it should have been adopted. That is, apart from the obvious consideration that spilling useful beans is a bad move. The idiom has appeared in various other forms since, including spill the dirt, spill the dice, spill the dope and spill the works. There’s also spill it by itself, with the sense “tell me your sensational gossip immediately”. These confirm that the key word is spill and that the other noun is a mere embellishment. We may guess that some bean-spilling accident led to stable boys using it, but, as with most idioms, history is silent on what that might have been.

Spill the beans may not be the same as the f-bomb, but this will be interesting to you: The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from – Salon.com

As society evolves, so do our curse words. Here’s how some of the most famous ones developed — and a few new ones.
Excerpted from “Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing”

The 18th and 19th centuries’ embrace of linguistic delicacy and extreme avoidance of taboo bestowed great power on those words that broached taboo topics directly, freely revealing what middle-class society was trying so desperately to conceal. Under these conditions of repression, obscene words finally came fully into their own. They began to be used in nonliteral ways, and so became not just words that shocked and offended but words with which people could swear.

Okay, if that little taste of swear words wasn’t enough for you language nerds: Exhaustive computer research project shows shift in English language

University of Illinois English professor Ted Underwood recently wrapped up a research project involving more than 4,200 books. Since that work revealed dramatic shifts in the English language between the 18th and 19th centuries, he’s now expanding his research to include more than 470,000 books – almost every English language book written during that era and preserved in a university library.

How did he find time to read 4,000 books, let alone 400,000? He didn’t, of course. Underwood, who teaches 18th- and 19th-century literature, worked with the U. of I.’s Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) and the HathiTrust Research Center (a collaboration of the U. of I. and Indiana University) to develop computer programs to crawl through digitized copies of the books, counting words and sorting genres.

Graphs and other goodies at that link, check it out.

Well…getting towards the end of this thread. I’ve got some film links for you to look over.

Short Takes: Our Nixon | Mother Jones

Our Nixon

DIPPER FILMS

One morning in 1972, Nixon chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman gave press secretary Ron Ziegler some big news: Nixon had just gone to meet with Mao Zedong, head of China’s Communist Party, marking the first thaw in a quarter century of US-China relations. In his shock, Ziegler bit into an unpeeled clementine without realizing it. This obscure clip is one of many you’ll experience in Our Nixon, a curated collage of 500 Super 8 film reels shot by Haldeman and Nixon aides Dwight Chapin and John Ehrlichman—ambitious men who obsessively documented their lives in the West Wing. The footage, seized by the FBI after Watergate, offers an intimate glimpse into a notoriously secretive administration. “It was a very unnatural kind of life,” Ehrlichman reveals. “You had the feeling you were in the middle of a great big, brilliantly lighted, badly run television show.”

For those who love a good laugh, by David Kalat via: MovieMorlocks.com – Mission critical Harold Lloyd

This week TCM debuts some super-rare Harold Lloyd shorts from the early years of his career.  I cannot overstate the significance of this find.

I was asked by TCM to write some material for the web site to introduce Harold Lloyd in general and some of these shorts in particular, but the specific remit of that assignment was kind of limiting, so I have a lot else to say about these films that didn’t fit into the website content.  But hey—I have a blog!

Harold Lloyd, Film Land's Famous Comedian

So—the first order of business is to ‘splain just why these shorts are so all-fired important.

You see, most histories of silent comedy tend to focus on two major turning points in the lives of each of the major slapstick comedians: a) the moment when they transitioned out of two-reel shorts and into features, and b) the moment they transitioned out of silent films and into talkies.  Our understanding of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and their various contemporaries has largely drawn from how they navigated these crucial turning points.

That is a long post, so go take a look at the link.

Finally, I have mentioned the film The Dam Busters many times before…

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/39/Dam_Busters_1954.jpg

The Dam Busters (1955) is a British Second World Warwar film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd and directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF’s617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany with Barnes Wallis‘s “bouncing bomb“.

The film was based on the books The Dam Busters (1951) by Paul Brickhill and Enemy Coast Ahead (1946) by Guy Gibson. The film’s reflective last minutes convey the poignant mix of emotions felt by the characters – triumph over striking a successful blow against the enemy’s industrial base is greatly tempered by the sobering knowledge that many died in the process of delivering it.

Well, can you believe it is the 70th Anniversary of the Dam Busters mission!  Look at this image from the Guardian:

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A Lancaster bomber flies over Ladybower reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak District to mark the 70th anniversary of the world war two Dambusters mission in Derwent, England. Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs were used by the RAF’s 617 Squadron in 1943 to test Sir Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb before their mission to destroy dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

Wow.  Look at that huge plane flying low over the dam, I just think that is cool as hell, and tell me, isn’t it a kick ass way to end a massive Sunday afternoon reads…

We start with one image of a frog that was drawn years and years ago, and compare it to an image of an amphibian of today, both of the little boogers featuring the same expression…and end with the image of a movie poster based on a real life WWII bombing mission and a photograph of a 70th Anniversary fly over celebrating that same event depicted in the movie.

Y’all have a great Sunday evening…


Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing News

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Good Morning!!

It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.

What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.

Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.

The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.

Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.

Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?

Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:

Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.

(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)

Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:

Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”

Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.

Read the rest of this entry »


Friday Nite Lite: Doing a Solid, Don’t Give a Solid, or Damn…We’re Solid Out of Luck

Good Evening

Man, I can’t seem to get my solid together today…

Anyway, here are your cartoons for your Friday Funnies!

Doing a Solid by Political Cartoonist Michael McParlane

131535 600 Doing a Solid cartoons

War Drums by Political Cartoonist Cameron Cardow

131467 600 War Drums cartoons

Guns For Kids – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 05/07/2013

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Guns For Kids

5/10 Luckovich cartoon: The right to bear arms | Mike Luckovich

051013-toon-luckovich-ed

Printable Gun by Political Cartoonist Chris Britt

131499 600 Printable Gun cartoons

Jodi Arias verdict by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

131555 600 Jodi Arias verdict cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by MStreeter, Savannah Morning News – 05/10/2013

Cartoon by MStreeter -

Gitmo and drones by Political Cartoonist John Cole

131558 600 Gitmo and drones cartoons

Whistleblowers Mother by Political Cartoonist Rick McKee

131554 600 Whistleblowers Mother cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 05/09/2013

Cartoon by David Horsey -

WAR ON WOMEN – Political Cartoon by Deb Milbrath, Cartoon Movement – 05/08/2013

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - WAR ON WOMEN

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 05/10/2013

Cartoon by David Horsey -

Benghazi by Political Cartoonist Joe Heller

131528 600 Benghazi cartoons

Benghazi Hearing by Political Cartoonist Adam Zyglis

131557 600 Benghazi Hearing cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune – 05/10/2013

Cartoon by Pat Bagley -

Sexual assault by Political Cartoonist Luojie

131539 600 Sexual assault cartoons

5/12 Luckovich cartoon: Combat medal | Mike Luckovich

051013-toon-luckovich2-ed

Sexual Assault by Political Cartoonist Chris Britt

131501 600 Sexual Assault cartoons

Nick Anderson: Military Justice – Nick Anderson – Truthdig

Kidnapped Cleveland Women found alive by Political Cartoonist Jeff Darcy

131384 600 Kidnapped Cleveland Women found alive cartoons

What Would Charles Ramsey do, Bruh? – Political Cartoon by J.D. Crowe, Mobile Register – 05/09/2013

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - What Would Charles Ramsey do, Bruh?

A whole lotta cartoons tonight! Have a lovely evening, and of course this is an open thread….