Posted: May 21, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Iraq War, ISIS, Islamic State, strange sounds in the sky, Vietnam, voter attitudes vs politicians' beliefs
How could I have slept until 10AM? I can’t believe it. I’ve been waking up really early ever since the time change, which was ages ago. This will be a quickie post, because I have to get ready to go somewhere this afternoon.
Before I get to the latest political news, I wanted to share this weird story I came across a few days ago in The Daily Mail. Please let me know if you think it’s for real or some kind of bizarre mass hypnosis.
What IS this strange sound from the sky? Noise heard across the globe for nearly a DECADE – but nobody has an explanation.
A mysterious noise from the sky is continuing to baffle people all over the world – as well as giving those who hear it sleepless nights.
Sounding like a trumpet or a collective from a brass section of an orchestra, a selection of videos shot from the Canada to Ukraine, via the U.S., Germany and Belarus show strange goings on above us.
And the eerie sounds have been continuously heard at all different times and locations for almost a decade.
The first video posted on YouTube recording the unusual, unearthly sounds, was in 2008 when a user recorded the strange sounds in the sky from Homel, in Belarus.
That same year another anonymous user shared the ‘ear-deafening’ sounds that they insisted ‘were not a hoax,’ from a quiet neighbourhood believed to be in the U.S.
Kimberly Wookey from Terrace, British Columbia in Canada first captured the alien sound in June 2013, and since then she has managed to capture several recordings of the noise with her most recent being on May 7 this year.
There are several examples of recordings of the strange sounds at the Daily Mail link. I looked on YouTube, and dozens of these recordings have been posted. Of course the end-timers are going to think these are trumpets from heaven sounding the last days. Someone in New Jersey thinks it’s a UFO.
Is this going to be another crop-circles-type mystery/hoax? Anyway, I love strange stuff like this, so I thought I’d share and see what you think.
We haven’t been talking about foreign news much lately, but things are not going well in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). I’m sure you’ve heard that ISIS has taken over the Iraqi city of Ramadi. ABC reports: Fall of Ramadi: 30 Car Bombs, 10 as Big as Oklahoma City Blast, US Official Says.
The State Department is sharing new details about the deadly fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, last Sunday, saying the city fell into ISIS hands after the militant group set off 30 suicide car bombs in the city center, 10 of which each were comparable in power to the Oklahoma City truck bomb of 1995.
The explosions took out “entire city blocks,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters at the State Department Wednesday on condition that he not be named. The vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, were able to gain access to the city center after an armored bulldozer plowed through T-wall barricades lining the city’s critical government buildings, the official said, adding that the same bulldozer was later used as a power VBIED, itself.
Soon after the bombs went off, the Iraqis deployed a reinforcing column into the city center, but they were forced to retreat after coming under heavy enemy fire, the official said. That retreat led to a larger exodus of Iraqi security forces and the civilian populations, leaving the streets looking “barren,” according to this official.
ABC also has video at the link. A little more:
The State Department and the Pentagon insist the fall of Ramadi does not closely resemble that of Mosul in 2014, when, after only a week of fighting, Islamic State forces were able to take over the entire city as ISF forces abandoned the posts, equipment and even their uniforms.
The State Department official argued that Ramadi has been fiercely contested for 18 months, as both sides controlled equal parts of the city. It wasn’t until the critical government center fell this weekend that ISIS was able to lay claim to the entire provincial capital.
But the official admitted that, in this case, the Iraqi forces did leave some U.S.-made weapons behind. The official suggested that if the enemy attempts to commandeer any of the bigger weapons, they would be killed in airstrikes.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius disagrees. He calls the fall of Ramadi a “tragic replay” of the “Mosul debacle.”
The capture of Ramadi last weekend by Islamic State fighters is a significant setback for U.S. strategy in Iraq and shows that, nearly a year after the extremists overran Mosul, the United States still doesn’t have a viable plan for protecting the country’s Sunni areas.
The collapse of the Iraqi army in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was in some ways a replay of the Mosul debacle in June 2014. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi military, though trained and retrained by the United States, appeared to lack the leadership or will to fight off a relatively small but ferocious onslaught of Sunni insurgents.
The Ramadi defeat exposed the sectarian tensions that underlie this war. Among the urgent questions: Are Shiite regular army troops ready to fight and die to protect Sunnis, or will their lines collapse in Sunni areas, as happened in Mosul and now Ramadi? If the tougher Iranian-backed Shiite militias are sent instead to do the job, will the Sunni population see them as a Shiite occupation army — setting the stage for a generation of sectarian revenge killing?
Gee, do you think maybe Bush and Cheney might have made a mistake when they attacked Iraq based on questionable intelligence?
Charles Pierce sees a replay of much tragic events in the more distant past:
The Fall Of Ramadi And The Vietnam Syndrome: In which we relive that which we ought not to have done in the first place.
It goes back to the “Bloody Shirt” campaigns in the decades after the Civil War. However, at least in those campaigns, the people waving the bloody shirt were doing so at people who actively had committed treason against the government of the United States and were attempting (with too much success) to win at the polls what they’d lost on the battlefield. More recent uses of the techniques sadly have been designed to cover the ass of bellicose mistakes, and worse, all over the world. Which means the “bloody shirt” begins to slide toward the Dolchstosslegendeof post-WWI Germany. And that never is a good thing.
In our current situation, we are seeing the beginnings of the kind of rhetoric that poisoned our politics for decades after the collapse of South Vietnam. In fact, there was a lot of that going around in 2006, when it became plain that the Iraq invasion had been sold on moonshine by a cabal of geopolitical fantasts and Dick Cheney….
The only way for the people who shook their moneymakers for the war in 2002 to justify their continued place in our politics is to use ISIL to replace the aluminum tubes and hope that enough people don’t notice what a grotesque fast shuffle this is. That will clear the way for the candidates on the Republican side — Rubio, Graham, Jeb (!), and, most recently, Chris Christie — who want to revive the old neocon hoo-rah while distancing themselves from its savage consequences. It looks very much like “Who lost Iraq?” may replace the disastrous decisions of the Avignon Presidency in this campaign, and that a good chunk of the Republican field will be perfectly happy to allow that to happen. For all the talk of the president’s fecklessness from the chickenhawk choir, what those candidates are about right now is the worst kind of cowardice.
Jesus. When will it ever end?
Talking Points Memo discusses a recent survey of voter attitudes.
Study: Lawmakers Assume Voters Are Way More Conservative Than They Are.
Researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan dug up some surprising results after posing the question: How much do lawmakers really know about their voters’ political views?
“Pick an American state legislator at random, and chances are that he or she will have massive misperceptions about district views on big-ticket issues, typically missing the mark by 15 percentage points,” David Broockman and Christopher Skovron wrote in a study for the Scholarly Strategy Network originally published in 2013.
To investigate the question, the duo surveyed thousands of state legislators and compared their perceptions of voters to people’s actual views, derived from a large body of public opinion data.
Their conclusion: “legislators usually believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are.”
On three issues — universal healthcare, same-sex marriage, and welfare — lawmakers’ assumptions about what their constituents believed were “15-20 percent more conservative, on average,” than the actual base of public support for such issues.
Most striking, both liberal and conservative lawmakers assume their voters are much further to the right than they actually are.
I’m not surprised, but it’s good to see intuition backed by empirical research.
More news, links only:
David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics: Rand Paul Launches His ‘Filibuster’ Against Patriot Act Renewal.
Politico: Rand Paul calls it a night after 10 1/2 hours. It’s not clear whether his speech on the PATRIOT Act had any real effect on Mitch McConnell’s plans.
Michael Schmidt at the NYT: A Closer Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails on Benghazi. Also, First Batch of Hillary Clinton Emails Captures Concerns Over Libya.
Des Moines Register: Huckabee decides to skip Iowa Straw Poll.
Bloomberg Politics: Iowa Republicans Are Worried About Jeb Bush’s Viability.
CNN: Jeb Bush rails against ‘intellectual arrogance’ in climate change debate.
The Hill: Obama: Climate change deniers endangering national security.
The WaPo: Fox News rules will limit the field in first GOP presidential debate.
Posted: May 12, 2015 Filed under: Barack Obama, Crime, Criminal Justice System, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Baltimore police, Benghazi, conspiracy theories, Freddie Gray, investigative journalism, Nepal earthquakes, Osama bin Laden, police brutality, Religion in America, Seymour Hersh
Nepal has been rocked by 7.3 magnitude earthquake only a few weeks after the last one. From The LA Times:
Still reeling from last month’s devastating earthquake, Nepal was hammered again Tuesday by a magnitude 7.3 temblor that caused dozens more deaths, unleashed fresh landslides and brought down unsteady buildings.
By late afternoon, Nepal’s Home Affairs Ministry said at least 42 people were killed and more than 1,117 injured in the largest aftershock yet recorded from the 7.8 quake on April 25. Officials warned that the toll could rise.
The epicenter was about 47 miles northeast of the capital, Katmandu, near the Chinese border, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The April 25 quake, which killed more than 8,150 people, was centered in the mountains west of Katmandu.
The tremor struck just before 1 p.m. local time, sending residents of the capital scurrying into the open air for safety, and was followed by a series of smaller tremors that rattled nerves even further.
Within hours, new makeshift tents had begun popping up in parts of Katmandu as families that had survived the earlier quake and returned to their homes in recent days decided again they were safer sleeping outdoors.
The Hindu is publishing live updates from Reuters. They report multiple aftershocks. What a terrible tragedy! Obviously this is a developing story, and we’ll hear more throughout the day and in coming days.
I missed this important investigative article from the Baltimore Sun over the weekend: Freddie Gray among many suspects who do not get medical care from Baltimore police.
Records obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that city police often disregard or are oblivious to injuries and illnesses among people they apprehend — in fact, such cases occur by the thousands.
From June 2012 through April 2015, correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center have refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody, according to state records obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.
In those records, intake officers in Central Booking noted a wide variety of injuries, including fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension. Of the detainees denied entry, 123 had visible head injuries, the third most common medical problem cited by jail officials, records show.
The jail records redacted the names of detainees, but a Sun investigation found similar problems among Baltimore residents and others who have made allegations of police brutality.e
Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz, who was awarded $170,000 by a jury in 2011, testified that he was arrested and transported to the Western District after being beaten by police and left with a broken nose, facial fracture and other injuries. Hours later, he went to Central Booking and then to Bon Secours Hospital, according to court records.
Abdul-Aziz said last week that jailers at Central Booking “wouldn’t let me in the door as soon as they saw my face. … I thought I was gonna die that day. Freddie Gray wasn’t so lucky.”
Read the rest at the Baltimore Sun link.
The Washington Post, which initially published leaks favorable to the Baltimore PD, published an editorial in response the the Sun article: Too much black and blue in Baltimore.
TWO OR three times a day on average, suspects in the custody of the Baltimore police are turned away by the city jail because they are deemed too battered, beaten, bruised or otherwise injured or sick to be processed and admitted. The police are forced to head instead for a hospital emergency room to seek treatment for suspects suffering from head injuries, broken bones, hypertension and an array of other afflictions.
The frequency of such occurrences was detailed over the weekend by the Baltimore Sun, which obtained records from the city’s detention center under the Maryland Public Information Act. According to those records, the jail has turned away nearly 2,600 ailing detainees since June 2012 — about 2 percent of all bookings.
That staggering figure suggests the Baltimore police are heedless, at best, of the physical welfare of suspects in their custody. It also may help explain how Freddie Gray could have pleaded for medical care at least five times after he was arrested last month before the officers who detained him bothered to summon a paramedic — by which time it was too late….
The police understand — and after 2,600 reaffirmations in three years, they should be acutely aware — that they are obliged to seek medical attention for suspects who are sick or injured before the jail will admit them. Yet somehow that obligation doesn’t seem institutionally ingrained in cops on the beat….
The Justice Department’s civil rights investigation of the city police, announced last week by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, should take account of these injured detainees, including the causes and circumstances of their injuries and whether police are adequately trained and instructed in assessing them. And it should examine whether African American suspects are more frequently hurt and denied prompt medical care than other detainees.
Journalists are still reacting to Seymour Hersh’s poorly sourced accusations that the Obama administration conspired with Pakistan to stage a fake raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and then lied about it. Here are two I found this morning:
Lawfare: Hersh’s Account of the Bin Laden Raid is Journalistic Malpractice, by Yishai Schwartz
When a journalist writes a tell-all story about a classified operation, and he suspects the story will catalyze anti-American anger, provide fuel for terrorist groups, and cause severe friction with foreign governments, the act of publication is morally fraught. When the story is based on obscenely thin sourcing and careens into conspiracy theories, the decision to publish becomes indefensible.
Seymour Hersh has had a long and distinguished history as one of America’s finest investigative journalists. In recent years, he has gone a bit kooky. In 2011, for instance, he suggested that Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, and the leadership of the US Joint Special Operations Forces were “all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.” His latest story, in which he claims that the entire story of Bin Laden’s killing is an elaborate cover-up for a joint Pakistani-American operation, may be his kookiest.
As many have already pointed out, Hersh’s version offers a combination of the inconsistent and the inexplicable. Why, for instance, would the Pakistanis help plan an elaborate raid, complete with a recall of Bin Laden’s Pakistani guards—rather than just hand Bin Laden over directly—if they always intended to claim he’d been killed in a drone strike hundreds of miles away? Worse, the key contentions rely on the exclusive word of one unnamed source who was a) retired, and b) on Hersh’s own account, only “knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.”
To be sure, there are scraps of Hersh’s hodgepodge narrative that may turn out to be true. That a CIA “walk-in” may have contributed to the intel leading to Bin Laden’s whereabouts, for instance, matches a tidbit that NBC has confirmed recently. And Hersh’s insistence that someone highly placed in the Pakistani intelligence services knew of Bin Laden’s presence has been pretty widely believed for a while. But leaping from these plausible and relatively minor details to the rest of the fantastic tale Hersh spins simply boggles the mind.
It’s unsurprising then that The New Yorker passed on the story (as it, along with the The Washington Post, have reportedly done with the last few of Hersh’s flights of fantasy.)
The London Review of Books, on the other hand, lacked the same degree of restraint. This is hardly surprising given the editorial leadership’s apparent lack of interest in fact-checking. As LRB senior editor Christian Lorentzen wrote in a 2012 piece suitably titled Short Cuts,” “the facts are the burden of the reporter…nobody at the paper fact-checks full time; that’s an American thing… I miss New York sometimes, but I don’t miss its schizophrenic obsession with facts, or the puritan hysteria that attends the discovery that a memoir should have been called a novel.” The LRB, it seems, takes pride in its sloppiness. Perhaps they have an editorial opening for Stephen Glass?
As a former fact-checker, I find the LRB’s approach part puzzling and part offensive. As a citizen who would like to form judgements and opinions on the basis of actual information, I’m horrified.
Wow! Read more at Lawfare Blog.
Politico: Sy Hersh, Lost in a Wilderness of Mirrors, by Jack Shafer.
Hersh leads the reader into a Wonderland of his own, thinly sourced retelling of the raid on Bin Laden’s complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. According to Hersh, who cites American sources, “bin Laden had been a prisoner of the [Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency] at the Abbottabad compound since 2006” and his ISI captors eased the way for the American SEAL team to skip into Pakistan on their helicopters, kill the al Qaeda leader, and then skip out.
It’s a messy omelet of a piece that offers little of substance for readers or journalists who may want to verify its many claims. The Hersh piece can’t be refuted because there’s not enough solid material to refute. Like the government officials who spun the original flawed Abbottabad stories, he simply wants the reader to trust him.
Hersh may very well be onto something—what did the Pakistanis know, when did they know it, and how much did they help? And that debate appears to be starting in earnest already, with NBC News quickly building off Hersh’s article
. But Hersh’s potentially valid question on that subject is almost lost in the broad sweep of rolling back so many other stories and quibbling with effectively every known detail of one of the most thoroughly leaked secret operations in history.
By re-exploring the bin Laden operation, Hersh has thrust himself into the phenomenological territories that Cold War spymaster James Jesus Angleton called a “wilderness of mirrors.” In this clandestine world, truths are constructed, obliterated and bent to serve their masters. Adversaries who would deceive abound in this place, and without a reliable map, a compass, a sense of direction and maybe even a pedometer, even the most intrepid voyager (or journalist) can find himself lost. I’ll volunteer to join a search party for Hersh—somebody I’ve long admired—if only somebody can tell me precisely where he is.
Another harsh indictment. I expect “progressive” conspiracy theorists like Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler will attempt to keep this story alive, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much traction in either the mainstream media or the sane alternative media.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
More interesting stories, links only:
At Politico, former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell recounts his Benghazi experiences: The Real Story of Benghazi. A CIA insider’s account of what happened on 9/11/12.
Pew Research Center, America’s Changing Religious Landscape. Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.
The Atlantic, American Religion: Complicated, Not Dead, by Emma Green.
Huffington Post, GOP Crowd Applauds Calling Immigrants Rats and Roaches, by Lauren Windsor.
Reuters, Verizon to buy AOL in push for digital content.
Fox News, Authorities say at least 7 victims found in Connecticut serial killer investigation.
NY Daily News: Connecticut serial killer already jailed for 2003 murder of still-missing woman: report.
What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!
Posted: May 9, 2015 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: academic freedom, Boston University, Chicago Teachers Union, David Cameron, EU, freedom of speech, Illinois legislature, Illinois Supremem Court, Rahm Emanuel, Saida Grundy, Scottish independence movement, UK elections, world media
Students study for finals on “BU Beach,” May 6, 2015
Well, well, well. Boston University and a newly hired assistant professor of sociology are being attacked by right wing nuts who can’t handle free speech or academic freedom. And so far BU is telling them they’re just going to have to deal with it. I hope they stick to their guns, so to speak. In honor of the school administration doing the right thing, I’m illustrating this post with views of the beautiful BU campus.
Fox News is shocked! Naturally, they begin with a version of “some people say….”
Boston University prof flunks ‘white masculinity’ in controversial tweets.
Critics say a newly-hired Boston University professor has crossed the line with recent tweets bashing whites, but the school says it’s simply free speech.
“White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges,” Saida Grundy, an incoming assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University, tweeted in March.
In another tweet from January, she wrote: “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.”
In another, she called white males a “problem population.”
“Why is white America so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?” she asked.
View of BU’s Charles River Campus.
Horrors! A black female sociologist who studies traditional masculinity had a few things to say on Twitter about white males. No one has to agree with her or even read her tweets (she has now made her account private). The KKK, the American Nazi Party, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Peggy Noonan, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and every other right wing nut you can name have the same rights to say mean things about any groups of people they choose.
Here’s BU’s response to Fox’s request for comment:
“Professor Grundy is exercising her right to free speech and we respect her right to do so,” Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said.
Read more of Grundy’s “controversial” tweets at the Fox News link and at a Patriots fan site here. I don’t know why they’re all bent out of shape about this.
Grudy got her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, and her other credentials look pretty good to me.
So far there hasn’t been a lot of reaction to this except from right wing sites like American Thinker and American Spectator. I’ll be keeping an eye on the story and whether BU continues to defend Grundy. If they don’t I’ll be very disappointed. It’s not about agreeing with everything she said; it’s about not giving in to the predictable right wing attacks on anyone who says something they disagree with–even if it’s only on Twitter.
BU College of Arts and Sciences
In other “diversity” news, a restaurant in Colorado is planning a “White Appreciation Day.” That should make the wingnuts happy. From MSNBC:
A Colorado barbecue joint has sparked national outrage with a racially-tinged promotion: “White Appreciation Day.”
“We have a whole month for Black History Month. We have a whole month for Hispanic heritage month,” Edgar Antillon told KUSA-TV. “So we figured all we could do – the least we can do – is offer one day to appreciate white Americans.”
Antillon told the NBC News affiliate that Rubbin’ Buttz, the restaurant he co-owns in Milliken, Colorado, would observe its “White Appreciation Day” on June 11. On this day, all white customers will receive a 10% discount.
It’s worth noting that Antillon is a first-generation American born to Mexican parents, and he acknowledged to KUSA-TV that he has personally experienced racism in his past.
“We’re all American, plain and simple,” he said to the NBC News affiliate.
Apparently the whole thing started as a joke, and then Antillon decided to actually do it. Who cares? It’s dumb and pointless, unless the goal is just to get national publicity. Why not just ignore it? According to The Root, non-white people could end up suing the restaurant for discrimination. The outrage industry in this country is completely out of control.
6/7/10 1:07:44 PM — Boston, Massachusetts
Campus Scenics of Kemore Square, Boston Skyline, BU Banners and Commonwealth Ave
Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University
Now for a little actual news.
The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down an effort by the state to cut public employee pensions. The Chicago Tribune reports:
The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt, sending lawmakers and the new governor back to the negotiating table to try to solve the pressing financial issue.
The ruling also reverberated at City Hall, imperiling a similar law Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through to shore up two of the four city worker retirement funds and making it more difficult for him to find fixes for police, fire and teacher pension funds that are short billions of dollars.
At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.
Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.
Marsh Chapel at center of Charles River campus
The court disagreed with the state, and really slapped down the Illinois legislature in their decision.
“Our economy is and has always been subject to fluctuations, sometimes very extreme fluctuations,” Republican Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote on behalf of all seven justices. “The law was clear that the promised benefits would therefore have to be paid and that the responsibility for providing the state’s share of the necessary funding fell squarely on the legislature’s shoulders.
“The General Assembly may find itself in crisis, but it is a crisis which other public pension systems managed to avoid and … it is a crisis for which the General Assembly itself is largely responsible,” Karmeier wrote.
“It is our obligation, however, just as it is theirs, to ensure that the law is followed. That is true at all times. It is especially important in times of crisis when, as this case demonstrates, even clear principles and long-standing precedent are threatened. Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law. It is a summons to defend it,” he wrote.
Nice win for workers for a change.
Shot of BU buildings on Commonwealth Avenue
Also from the Trib, Chicago teachers are standing up for their rights too: Chicago Teachers Union files labor complaint against school board.
The Chicago Teachers Union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint accusing the city’s school board of bad-faith bargaining and refusing to engage in mediation toward a new contract.
Union officials said little progress has been made over eight formal bargaining sessions and numerous informal meetings since November. The complaint filed Wednesday with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board follows the union’s rejection earlier this week of the board’s proposal that teachers take on a greater share of pension payments….
As she did in the months before the 2012 teachers strike, CTU President Karen Lewis sought to make Mayor Rahm Emanuel the focus of the union’s displeasure with talks to replace a contract that expires June 30. The union again accused the city of using the talks to get back at the CTU for its support of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the mayoral election.
“We feel this is reactionary and retaliatory,” Lewis said at a news conference Wednesday. “I guess the fuzzy sweater’s gone,” she said, referring to Emanuel’s wearing a sweater in campaign commercials to indicate a softer personality.
The district, which says it is wrestling with a $1.1 billion deficit weighted with pension payments, wants to save millions of dollars by having teachers pay more into their pension fund. The district wants to end a long-standing agreement that limits teacher paycheck deductions for pensions, the union said.
I have a solution for Chicago’s and for the state of Illinois’s budget problems. Tax the rich. Blaming teachers and government workers isn’t going to solve your money problems. It’s just going to make everything worse. Tax the people who can afford to give something back to the government that constantly favors them.
View of Marsh Chapel with Charles River in foreground
We haven’t discussed it here yet, but there was a big election in Great Britain with surprising results.
From The Washington Post after the scope of the conservative victory became clear: British election results point to commanding lead for Conservatives.
LONDON — Exit polls and partial results after a nationwide vote to pick Britain’s next Parliament showed the Conservative Party with a surprisingly commanding lead Friday, just short of a majority and in a strong position to return to power.
The projections defied virtually all pre-election polls, which forecast a virtual tie between the Tories and the opposition Labor Party in the popular vote. Both main parties had been expected to fall well short of the majority needed to claim power outright.
But as the counting continued into dawn Friday, all signs pointed to an emphatic margin in favor of the Conservatives and their leader, Prime Minister David Cameron, and to a major disappointment for Labor as well as the Liberal Democrats, who paid a steep price for having entered into a coalition with the Conservatives for the past five years.
At dawn Friday, Labor leader Ed Miliband delivered what amounted to a concession speech, saying it had been “a very disappointing and difficult night” for his party.
Meanwhile, in the election’s other stunning development, though one that had been predicted, the Scottish National Party (SNP) was redrawing the map of Scotland with what looked like a historic rout in what has long been one of Labor’s most reliable strongholds.
Another aerial view
The results in Scotland could have long-term significance for the “United Kingdom.” if the trend toward Scottish independence continues.
From the WaPo again: In U.K. election’s wake, questions on E.U., Scotland.
Newly empowered British Prime Minister David Cameron moved swiftly to establish the terms and priorities for his new government on Friday after a stunning national election that delivered his Conservative Party an unexpected majority, devastated three other parties and redrew the political map of Scotland.
Following predictions that the post-election maneuvering to form a government might take days if not weeks, the Conservative Party’s big victory produced a quick end to speculation about what or who would be in charge.
But if the election produced an unexpectedly clear outcome, it may only have heightened the degree to which the country faces a period of internal debate, inward-looking politics and potential instability, with questions about the durability of the United Kingdom and its place in both Europe and the world still to be answered.
Cameron will have to find a way to manage resurgent Scottish nationalists who are demanding more powers and possibly another referendum on independence. Further, his pledge to hold a referendum to determine Britain’s future in the European Union will continue to raise uncertainty about the country’s commitments and reliability there.
From BBC News: World media fear UK EU exit, looser US ties.
A day after the surprise result in the UK elections, world media outlets have been taking a look at the ramifications.
European papers are concerned about the effect on the EU in the light of Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum on leaving. And there is speculation that the Scottish nationalists’ spectacular gains may herald the break-up of the United Kingdom.
A US daily fears the result may be the harbinger of the end of the US-UK “special relationship”, but one Spanish daily is enthralled by a photo of Mr Cameron using cutlery to eat a hot dog.
See examples of media reactions at the link. International Business Times also collected world media reactions, and the stats freaks at FiveThirtyEight had to do some serious soul-searching about why they were completely wrong.
So . . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a great spring weekend!!
Posted: April 26, 2015 Filed under: Breaking News, Foreign Affairs, morning reads | Tags: Kathmandu, Mt. Everest, Nepal, Nepal earthquake, Northern India
Residents cry as they walk past damaged houses to safer areas, after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, in Gyirong county of Xigaze Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China, April 25, 2015. Rescuers dug with their bare hands and bodies piled up in Nepal on Sunday after an earthquake devastated the heavily crowded Kathmandu valley, killing at least 1,900*, and triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. In Tibet, the death toll climbed to 17, according to a tweet from China’s state news agency, Xinhua. Picture taken April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
*As of the posting of this thread the death toll is at over 2400.
Toll Mounts as Nepal Searches for Quake Survivors | Al Jazeera America
More than 2,400 people confirmed dead in 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has devastated the Himalayan nation
I am going to give you links on this post updating you on the Nepal Earthquake, I will do a later post with other stories because I think the efforts in Nepal deserve our singular attention.
Starting with relief programs:
How to Help the Relief Effort in Nepal – NYTimes.com
In the aftermath of the earthquake, aid workers were already on the ground on Saturday providing much-needed relief to the survivors.
Here is a list of some of the groups soliciting donations to support their efforts in Nepal:
Oxfam is an international coalition of charities dedicated to fighting poverty. Aid workers from the group are on the ground, preparing to hand out food and water. @Oxfam on Twitter.
“We are initiating a response to meet basic, urgent needs with temporary shelter, food, water, emergency health interventions, and other vital aid.”
@WorldVision on Twitter.
Volunteers from the Nepal arm of the Red Cross are helping in the search for survivors. @ICRC on Twitter.
United Nations World Food Programme
The United Nations agency is providing food and other aid to survivors.
@WFP on Twitter.
Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization providing food, water, shelter, medicine, and other assistance to earthquake survivors. @SamaritansPurse on Twitter.
CARE is asking for donations for critical relief. The group said its humanitarian workers were currently on the ground assessing the situation in Nepal and determining the most immediate needs. @CARE on Twitter.
Save the Children
Donations to Save the Children, an organization with extensive reach in Nepal, will go toward efforts to provide protection for children and relief to their families.
@SC_Nepal on Twitter.
HuffPo has an article here: Aid Agencies Rally To Help Victims Of Nepal’s Earthquake
From The Independent: Nepal earthquake: How you can help victims of the Kathmandu disaster – World – News – The Independent
And a suggestion from a reader reelcarina: Sad Coincidence: Tragedy in Nepal on Richter Scale Day | stepabout
Accordingly, Nepal’s government has declared a state of emergency, asking the international community for help. We ARE the international community! So how can we help? Of course, I can’t just sit here on my sunny balcony in the ‘happiest country in the world’ (Switzerland was recently found to be that by UNO) and simply do nothing. However, I can’t drive out to the airport, catch the next plane to Kathmandu and help the population there myself. So, the possibility that remains is donating. I’m a student, so I don’t really have many financial means, but to those affected people in Nepal, even 40 or 50 Swiss Francs will be of great help! If you, dear readers, donate as well, it’s gonna be even better! As for today, my blog’s got 43 followers (Thank you so much for that, by the way!). If every one of you donates 25 Francs/Euros or whatever other currency, we’ll have contributed over 1000 Euros already! Now imagine, if other bloggers join in, our lovely internet community will unravel its full strength and actually make a difference in Nepal :-)
Pooling money together does add up…
Now here are some links to catch you up:
*This link gives some numbers: Foreign Governments Tally Citizens in Nepal
April 26, 2015 10:16 AM
The 7.9 magnitude quake struck at midday at a busy time of year for the tourism-reliant country’s trekking and climbing season, with an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country, several hundred of those on Mount Everest.
Countries are listed in alphabetical order.
Austria: Foreign ministry says around 250 Austrians in Nepal, no reports so far on any casualties.
Bangladesh: Foreign ministry says no nationals in Nepal have been reported injured or killed. But four reported killed inside Bangladesh.
Britain: No details released yet.
Belgium: Foreign ministry says not aware of any victims.
China: Xinhua news agency, quoting the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, reports four people confirmed dead and 10 seriously injured.
France: Foreign ministry says around 500 French nationals have been located and are safe, and has no information on any victims.
Germany: No details released yet.
India: Nearly 800 Indians have been evacuated from Nepal with more on the way home, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. No Indian casualties yet reported in Nepal, but 49 reported killed in India.
Indonesia: Foreign ministry says has 34 nationals in Nepal. Eighteen are living in Nepal and 16 are visiting. Says still trying to contact 18 of those nationals.
Israel: Foreign ministry says it estimates around 600 Israelis are in Nepal, and has secured contact with 400, most of them sheltering at the embassy in Kathmandu. These include 25 couples in Nepal to bring home babies born to surrogates.
Italy: No details released yet.
Japan: Foreign ministry says has no reports of Japanese killed or injured in the quake, but is still checking whereabouts of citizens. Some 1,100 Japanese living in Nepal are registered with the embassy, but no information on number of nationals travelling through.
Latvia: Local news agencies report around 41 people from Latvia in Nepal at the moment. Four are missing.
Lithuania: Foreign ministry says 25 Lithuanian nationals registered in Nepal are safe, but does not know yet of any unregistered travellers.
Malaysia: Foreign ministry says all citizens in Nepal are accounted for and safe. A team of Malaysian Everest climbers are safe at base camp.
Philippines: Two Filipino climbers are reported safe.
Poland: No news on any Poles affected.
Romania: Nineteen Romanians in Nepal, including mountaineer Alex Gavan and three others, all reported to be safe.
Russia: Tass news agency, citing emergencies ministry, says no casualties among Russians.
Sweden: Foreign ministry is aware of around 40 Swedes in Nepal but has no information about dead, hurt or missing nationals.
South Korea: Foreign ministry says three nationals injured in the earthquake. It estimates 650 residents and as many as 1,000 travelers were in Nepal at the time.
Nepal hospitals overflowing, rural towns cut off, aid groups say – The Times of India
HONG KONG: Aid groups and governments worldwide intensified efforts Sunday to help earthquake-hit Nepal, but blocked roads, downed power lines and overcrowded hospitals posed formidable challenges in an already poor country.
As the death toll in the Himalayan nation surpassed 2,300, the US together with European and Asian nations sent emergency crews to reinforce those scrambling to find survivors in the devastated capital Kathmandu and in cut-off rural areas.
“Tragically, more bodies are being pulled from collapsed buildings every hour,” the Australian Red Cross said in a statement.
“Communication is down in many areas. Widespread destruction, rubble and landslides are preventing access to provide aid in many villages.”
6.6 million people affected in Nepal quake: UN – bdnews24.com
Magnitude 6.7 quake aftershock hits Nepal and India | eNCA
Extent of the Damage From the Nepal Earthquake – NYTimes.com
The earthquake’s epicenter was not far from the capital, Katmandu. The United States Geological Survey had counted 12 aftershocks by midafternoon, one of which measured at a magnitude of 6.6. Deaths were reported as far away as northern India and on Mount Everest. | Related Article »
The Guardian has excellent live updates and coverage:
Nepal earthquake: rescue continues as death toll exceeds 2,000 – live updates | World news | The Guardian
Nepal earthquake: more than 200 Australians confirmed safe | World news | The Guardian
Nepal earthquake: Rescue effort intensifies – BBC News
US, Canada, Russia to assist in rescue | Top Stories
KATHMANDU, APR 26 –
United States Secretary John Kerry has issued a press statement on Saturday on behalf of the US government to express condolences to all of those affected by the earthquake in Nepal, including the families of those who died in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
Kerry, in his statement, said that they are working closely with the government of Nepal to provide assistance and support at this time of crisis.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Bodde has issued a disaster declaration in order to immediately release an initial $1 million for humanitarian assistance.
USAID is preparing to deploy a Disaster Assistance Response Team and is activating an Urban Search and Rescue Team to accompany disaster experts and assist with assessments of the situation.
Likewise, Russia and China are also sending teams to assist in the rescue operation. Chinese team is arriving with six specially-trained dogs and head to Gorkha district with medicines and food to carry out the rescue operation.
Nepal Earthquake – The Numbers – WSJ
The massive earthquake that shook Nepal on Saturday has so far claimed the lives of at least 1,900 people.
The quake, which struck shortly before noon, local time, spread devastation across a broad swath of territory, severely damaging parts of the capital’s historic center, flattening remote villages and triggering a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.
Here’s a look at the earthquake by the numbers.
Nepal’s Landmarks, Before and After the Earthquake – NYTimes.com
This nine-story structure was built in 1832 on orders from the queen. It was made of bricks about a foot and a half thick, and had recently been reopened to the public. Sightseers could ascend a narrow spiral staircase to a viewing platform around 200 feet above the city.
July 15, 2013
Bal Krishna Thapa Chhetri
April 25, 2015
Narendra Shrestha/European Pressphoto Agency
More pictures at that link.
Nepal Earthquake: Incredible Pictures From Everest Base Camp – India Real Time – WSJ
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Images show devastating effects of quake that tore a country apart – Asia – World – The Independent
nepal earthquake – Google Search you can see more pictures at that link as well….
Some reports out of Everest:
Mount Everest: New avalanches from aftershocks in Nepal – CNN.com
Nepal earthquake: Everest survivors describe ordeal – BBC News
Climbers above Everest base camp all safe | Reuters
217 missing in Everest | National- ekantipur.com
Video of the Everest avalanche are hitting Youtube but the ones I found are the same as some posted from 2009:
▶ Massive Mount Everest Avalanche Caught on Camera – YouTube
Posted Apr 25th….
Published on Apr 25, 2015
Nepal Earthquake Triggers Everest Avalanche, 18 Killed at Base Camp
At least 13 people were killed on Everest on Saturday as a massive avalanche – triggered by an earthquake near the Nepalese capital Kathmandu – swept through base camp.
The avalanche trapped other climbers higher on the mountain as those in base camp ran for their lives to escape falling ice and rock.
Videos from Everest south-side base camp showed flattened tents and blocks of rock scattered around a site dusted deep in snow. The avalanche appeared to have swept through the mid section of the strung-out base camp.
This is the same video as this: ▶ 5/3/09 – Mt. Everest Avalanche caught on tape – YouTube
Uploaded on May 6, 2009
In a series of Skype video chats, Miles O’Brien has been talking with Astronaut Scott Parazynski, who is at Mt. Everest prepping for a summit bid. While at Everest Base Camp, Scott and his partner Keith Cowing captured an avalanche on tape.
This next link is interesting, about how poverty will affect the aid relief.
Devastating Earthquake in Nepal: Humanitarian Relief and Tackling Poverty | Winnie Byanyima
Yesterday a terrible earthquake shook Nepal near the capital, Katmandu. Oxfam teams are on ground in Nepal with more staff and relief supplies flying in. I’d like to share this post which was shared with us in response, by Shaheen Chughtai, Oxfam’s Deputy Head of Humanitarian Policy and Campaigns.
Kathmandu was ever a disaster-in-waiting. The densely populated capital of one of the world’s poorest countries clings to the slopes of the seismically unstable Himalayas. The city was near-leveled and 8,500 killed in its last great earthquake 81 years before. It had history. On Saturday, the long-feared calamity struck.
And these articles explains why the earthquake happened:
Ancient Collision Made Nepal Earthquake Inevitable – NYTimes.com
More than 25 million years ago, India, once a separate island on a quickly sliding piece of the Earth’s crust, crashed into Asia. The two land masses are still colliding, pushed together at a speed of 1.5 to 2 inches a year. The forces have pushed up the highest mountains in the world, in the Himalayas, and have set off devastating earthquakes.
Experts had warned of the danger to the people of Katmandu for decades. The death toll in Nepal on Saturday was practically inevitable given the tectonics, the local geology that made the shaking worse and the lax construction of buildings that could not withstand the shaking.
Nepal earthquake: The history and why quakes happen in the Himalayas – Asia – World – The Independent
Nepal quake ‘followed historic pattern’ – BBC News
What caused the Nepal earthquake? – Al Jazeera English
Video at the link.
(Well, that sucks. The video will not work in the US, but it may work in other countries. )
I will update this post with links in the comments below.
The other Sunday thread will be up later this evening.
Posted: April 19, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, abortion rights, Africa, Discrimination against women, Domestic terrorism, GLBT Rights, Hillary Clinton, immigration, Italy, misogyny, morning reads, the GOP, War on Women, Women's Healthcare, Women's Rights
Still moving sick and slow, and so this morning’s post is barely going to seem coherent.
While you read the links enjoy the images, which are actual color photographs from the beginning of the medium.
Particularly photos by Gustave Gain. I’ve got a bit of information on him below…
vintage everyday: 23 Rare and Stunning Color Portraits of French Women from the 1920s
French photographer Gustave Gain (1876-1945) was born in Cherbourg, France on June 27, 1876. As a chemist he keens on photography and related technical achievements. After the invention of the Autochrome by the Lumière brothers, Gustave is actively engaged in color photograph.
Gustave Gain loves beach. In the summer, he spent much time with his family on the coast of the English Channel in Brittany and Normandy, where he took a lot of stunning shots of his wife, Adeline and other women.
More links on Gain:
Gustave Gain (1876-1945) – Author – Resources from the BnF
Fonds Gustave Gain (FR-FRAD050 – FRAD050_00225)
And here is a Pinterest section on Autochromes – People on Pinterest | 558 Pins
So, on with the links for the post:
Now this is one image that I am sure you will agree, should look a lot better in autochrome, because the present day image is just too much. Beware, once you see it you can’t unsee it. 18th century sex toy found in ‘toilet of sword fighting school’ in Poland – Europe – World – The Independent
An old leather sex toy dating back to the 18th century was found by surprised archaeologists during a dig in Poland.
The eight-inch dildo filled with rough bristles was discovered during an excavation that could have been the site of an old school of swordsmanship in the northern coastal city of Gdansk.
A spokesman for the Regional Office for the Protection of Monuments in Gdansk, which found the penis-shaped object in the Podwalu district, said: “It was found in the latrine and dates back to the second half of the 18th century.”
“It is quite thick and rather large, made of leather and filled with bristles, and has a wooden tip that has preserved in excellent condition. It was probably dropped by someone in the toilet.
“Whether that was by accident or on purpose is anyone’s guess though,” they added.
Wooden swords found on the site by the archaeologists led them to conclude that the place was once a school of swordsmanship.
Wow, that leaves me almost speechless…
Lili Von Shtupp: Would you like another schnitzengruben?
Bart: No, thank you. Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.
Dr. Frankenstein: For the experiment to be a success, all of the body parts must be enlarged.
Inga: His veins, his feet, his hands, his organs vould all have to be increased in size.
Dr. Frankenstein: Precisely.
Inga: [her eyes get wide] He vould have an enormous schwanzschtücker.
Dr. Frankenstein: [ponders this a moment] That goes without saying.
Igor: He’s going to be very popular.
That’ll do nicely.
Since you have seen something as horrid as that…how about this:
A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook, oof, talk about polar opposites.
I guess I have given you some images to disgust your eyes for the day, how about some links to give your brain a going over:
Rand Paul smacks around Hilary Clinton at New Hampshire summit | Daily Mail Online
‘When Hillary Clinton travels there’s going to need to be two planes, one for her and her entourage, one for her baggage,’ Rand Paul smacks around Democratic rival at New Hampshire summit
At Republican Gathering, All Talk Is of Hillary Clinton (None of It Is Good) – NYTimes.com
GOP Presidential Contenders Go After Hillary Clinton In New Hampshire
Those Hillary links are especially vile.
Next up, immigrants. Only this time in the Mediterranean.
Up to 700 feared dead after migrant boat capsizes in Mediterranean – The Globe and Mail
The extreme danger faced by migrants crossing the Mediterranean in small, rickety vessels was highlighted earlier today when a boat carry as many as 700 capsized, resulting in possibly the largest mass drowning since the migrant crisis began several years ago.
Initial reports said that only 28 of the 700 migrants had been rescued, though one report put the figure at 50. The disaster happened about 60 kilometres off the Libyan coast and about 200 kilometres south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies roughly half way between Sicily and northwest Libya.
The emergency was declared at about midnight, local time, with more than a dozen Italian and Maltese ships taking part in the rescue, plus three helicopters. At midday Sunday, the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, said the rescue was ongoing. The vessel is believed to have capsized when the migrants shifted to one side of the vessel when a merchant ship approached. “At the moment, we fear that this is a tragedy of really vast proportions, UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami told SkyTG24 television.
In connection with this latest sinking:
Pope Francis asks world to help Italy with migrants – Al Jazeera English
Pope Francis has called on the European Union and the international community to do more to help Italy cope with unprecedented numbers of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean during journeys on smugglers’ boats to flee war, persecution or poverty.
With his popularity and deep concern for social issues, the pope gave Italy a boost in its lobbying for Brussels and northern EU countries to provide more assistance.
“I express my gratitude for the commitment that Italy is making to welcome the many migrants who, risking their life, ask to be taken in,” said Francis, flanked by Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president. “It’s evident that the proportions of the phenomenon require much broader involvement.”
“We must never tire of appealing for a more extensive commitment on the European and international level,” the pope said.
On Saturday, towns in the southern island of Sicily were running out of places to shelter the migrants, including 11,000 arrivals in the past eight days. At least another 400 people are known to have drowned.
From to Pope to crazy ass Plubs, and their attacks on…everything.
This, read it in full: Why Gay Rights Trumps Women’s Rights – In These Times
Yet it’s not simply the fringe that’s the problem. I have a sneaking suspicion that while as a society we may use women’s sexuality to sell everything from cars to buffalo wings and beer, we really don’t like women actually engaging in sex on their own terms and having the ability to make certain to solely determine the results of those encounters.
For me, having spent 40 or more years fighting along my brothers and sisters for full equality for the LGBT community, I’m ready for a bit more two-way solidarity.
I’m ready to have the NCAA, with their supposed commitment to Title IX, refuse to play in Indiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Dakota and Arizona because these states are openly hostile to women and our constitutional rights.
I’m ready to have gay rights organizations, the media and corporations, such as Walmart, Google, NASCAR and Angie’s List, be as moved to action by Purvi Patel’s 20-year incarceration as they—and I—are about the refusal of a baker to make a wedding cake for same-sex celebrations.
And most of all I’m waiting for the kind of Act Up outrage that the abuse of women surely deserves.
And yes, I do feel the writer has a HUGE point. Read the entire thing. That of course does not mean the fight for LGBT is over, not by a long shot:
Addicting Info – Pennsylvania High School Students Organize ‘Anti-Gay Day,’ Complete With ‘Lynch List’ (VIDEO)
That is so unacceptable, it is beyond comprehension, at least to me.
Jeffco board member apologizes for sharing link to “hate group” on Facebook | Chalkbeat
Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams said late Friday that she was “sincerely sorry” and that she would remove a link on her personal Facebook page that she shared that encouraged families to keep their students home Friday and “away from perverse indoctrination” of the“homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda.”
“To be honest with you, I didn’t read the article,” Williams said. “I just saw it and thought I was sharing information with parents.
More Women in the news:
Indiana taxpayers ripped off in horrifying scheme that targeted poor pregnant women
Courts should strike down bans on abortion method in Kansas, Oklahoma – LA Times
Meanwhile in Europe:
Anti-Semitism in the Soccer Stands – NYTimes.com
An ugly vein of soccer fan excess — the chanting of anti-Semitic slurs — recently disgraced a Dutch soccer game, prompting officials of the home team, Utrecht, to apologize for shocking outcries from the stands like “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” and “Jews burn the best!”
It is scary.
Brunch dine and bash at Bocca: witnesses – NY Daily News
An angry diner viciously grabbed an Upper East Side restaurant manager by the neck and hurled him into an elderly woman after waiting an hour and a half for his omelette during a case of brunch rage Saturday afternoon.
Dammit, what the hell is wrong with people?
Can you believe it has been 20 years since the Bombing of Oaklahoma?
US Remembers Oklahoma City Bombing 20 Years Later
About 1,000 gathered at the former site of the Oklahoma City federal building to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist bombing there that killed 168 people and injured many others.
Former President Bill Clinton and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin were among those who spoke at Sunday’s service at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood.
The service started with a 168-second moment of silence and concluded with survivors and tearful relatives of the dead reading the names of those killed in the April 19, 1995, attack, which remains the worst U.S. act of domestic terrorism.
A surprise admission out of Washington.Dc: FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000 – The Washington Post
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’slargest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
And in Africa: ‘Mysterious’ disease kills 18 in Nigeria | World news | The Guardian
A “mysterious” disease that kills patients within 24 hours has claimed at least 18 lives in a south-eastern Nigerian town, the government said.
“Twenty-three people were affected and 18 deaths were recorded,” the Ondo state health commissioner, Dayo Adeyanju, said on Saturday.
The government spokesman for the state, Kayode Akinmade, earlier gave a toll of 17 dead.
“Seventeen people have died of the mysterious disease since it broke out early this week in Ode-Irele town,” Akinmade told AFP by telephone.
The disease, whose symptoms include headache, weight loss, blurred vision and loss of consciousness, killed the victims within a day of falling ill, he said.
Laboratory tests have so far ruled out Ebola or any other virus, Akinmade said.
The World Health Organisation meanwhile said it had information on 14 cases with at least 12 dead.
“Common symptoms were sudden blurred vision, headache, loss of consciousness followed by death, occurring within 24 hours,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told AFP by email, adding that an investigation was ongoing.
I will end this with a tweet from Stephen King that I think sums just about the entire 2016 GOP primary list so far:
Oh yeah, that man just said a fucking mouthful!!!!!!!!!
This is an open thread, I am falling asleep while trying to write it. lol
Posted: April 9, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, Barack Obama, Civil Rights, Congress, Foreign Affairs, GLBT Rights, homophobia, House of Representatives, Iran, Israel, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: #BridgeGate, Benjamin Netanyahu, Chris Christie, conversion therapy, gender neutral bathrooms, George Washington Bridge scandal, Secret Service, sexual assault, Twitter, Valerie Jarrett, White House
I’m not seeing any particular theme in today’s news, but there is quite a bit of good stuff to read; so I’ll just toss out a few items that interested me.
Poor Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems all his efforts to use the Republican Congress to squash President Obama’s negotiations is one big giant fail. He managed to get reelected with the help of John Boehner et al., but that’s about it. First Obama said that Iran recognizing Israel wouldn’t be part of any deal, and then yesterday the White House mocked Bibi on Twitter.
The Washington Post: Why Obama says Iran does not have to recognize Israel as part of a nuclear deal.
President Obama, who doesn’t get along with Netanyahu, seemed to dismiss the Israeli premier’s latest demand in an interview this week. When asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether Iranian recognition of the state of Israel would be included in any final deal, Obama deemed such a move a “fundamental misjudgment.” Here’s an excerpt of his remarks:
Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy….
There’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.
The point here is one that diplomats would take for granted. When attempting to make a deal with your interlocutor, particularly one where there’s a considerable history of grievance and animosity, you can’t expect to win a total capitulation.
Duh. Poor Bibi, like today’s Republicans doesn’t comprehend the notion of compromise.
David Knowles at Bloomberg Politics on the Twitter gag: White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.
The White House has employed a graphic first used by Benjamin Netanyahu to push its case for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Israeli Prime Minister opposes. On Wednesday, the president’s office posted a tweet that borrowed the graphic representation of a bomb that Netanyahu had held up during a speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly in which he warned of Iran’s growing nuclear capability.
The fuse on the original image was intact, and there was no sign of the metaphorical scissors or accompanying text that the White House saw fit to add.
And how about this op-ed from the Jerusalem Post: How Netanyahu is single-handedly hurting the US-Israel relationship.
Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962. The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.” [….]
even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.
According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a“dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections. Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull—t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did notpost an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.
When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.
The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.
From The Washington Post, here’s more interesting news from the White House: White House condemns therapy to ‘cure’ gay youth.
The statement was issued in response to a White House petition signed by more than 120,000 people after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Ohio whose suicide note condemning the society’s treatment of transgender people went viral after her death. In the note, she indicated she had been subjected to such therapies.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in her note.
The White House statement, issued by President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, condemned “conversion” therapy, also known as “reparative” therapy, which she defined as any treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” she wrote. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
Shortly before releasing the White House response to the petition on conversion therapy, according to a White House official, Jarrett spoke with organizers of the petition. “She listened to their personal stories about why this was important to them and thanked them for their efforts,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in order to describe a private conversation.
And from The Advocate: The White House’s Executive Office Now Has Gender-Neutral Bathroom.
An all-gender restroom is for the first time available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, confirms a White House spokesman. Alternatively, guests are invited to use whichever bathroom fits with their gender identity.
“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, “which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors.”
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, had mentioned the policy change in an op-ed today for The Advocate, saying the adminstration had “closely examined” its policies on “restroom access” to help “ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”
Gender neutral bathrooms, if single-stall, also often offer a safe space to differently abled users, parents with their children, and anyone else seeking privacy.
The push for gender-neutral restrooms in public buildings and workplaces has been one cause taken up by transgender rights activists — and one that’s found the most visible sucecss on university campuses — making Jarrett’s anouncement feel to many like a win for trans Americans.
“It is heartening to see that, even if legislators in some states are attacking the dignity and humanity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, at least the White House is still moving in the direction of dignity and common sense,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate.
Within the past several years, the Obama administration has been increasingly affirming of trans citizens, with Vice President Joe Biden referring in 2012 to transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time” and President Obama using the word “transgender” (in addition to “lesbian” and “bisexual”) in this year’s State of the Union Address for the first time ever for any president. Federal employees have had the right to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identiy since 2011.
Around the country, heads of Republican homophobes must be exploding. Read the whole article for more on LGBT-positive actions the Obama administration has taken.
Some not so good news: the Secret Service’s credibility continues to slide downhill rapidly.
WaPo: Secret Service manager put on leave during probe of alleged assault.
The D.C. police’s sex-crimes unit and a government inspector general are investigating the female agent’s allegation that Xavier Morales, a manager in the security clearance division, made unwanted sexual advances and grabbed her on the night of March 31 after they returned to the office from a party at a downtown restaurant, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the probe.
The woman told police and agency investigators that Morales, her boss, told her during the party at Capitol City Brewing Company that he was in love with her and would like to have sex with her, according to two people briefed on her statements. In the office later, she alleged, Morales tried to kiss her and grabbed her arms when she resisted, according to the two people briefed on her complaint. The woman alleged that the two scuffled until Morales relented.
Through an agency spokesman, Morales declined to comment, and he did not respond to requests for comment left on his personal phone.
Late last week, the Secret Service took the unusual step of placing Morales on indefinite administrative leave and adding his name to an internal “do not admit” list prohibiting entry to the office, a Secret Service official said. The Secret Service also took away his gun and badge after agency investigators launched a preliminary review of the complaint and conducted “subsequent corroborative interviews” Thursday afternoon, said agency spokesman Brian Leary.
More details at Heavy.com: Xavier Morales: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.
Ugh. Maybe we need more female Secret Service agents to quell the “boys will be boys” atmosphere in the agency.
More trouble may be coming for NJ governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.
NJ.com reports: Indictments may come very soon in Bridgegate, report says.
Indictments may be coming very soon in Bridgegate, the investigation into improper lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in late 2013 that has also led to questions about bribery and conflicts of interest possibly involving Gov. Christie and the Port Authority, sources told The New York Times.
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman launched the probe a few months after three lanes were closed to the bridge in September 2013, causing gridlock in Fort Lee. The closures were initially attributed to a traffic study by a Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, but emails unearthed during an investigation revealed that the lanes were shut down on the orders of a Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, to a Port Authority official appointed by Christie, David Wildstein. Some believe the lane closures were retribution for the failure of Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election at a time when the governor and likely Republican presidential candidate was trying to build bipartisan support.
The Times previously reported that Fishman’s office may bring indictments to the operators of the bridge under a little-used statute that makes it a crime to use the bridge for something other than its intended purpose. Fishman’s office declined to say what course the investigation is taking.
This could be very interesting.
I have more news links, but I’m running out of space and time. I’ll add them to the comments.
What stories are you following? I’d love to read your comments on this post and click on your links to your recommended reads for today.
Posted: April 3, 2015 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Iran, morning reads, open thread, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: iran, israel, nuclear weapons, US Foreign Policy
I’m running late again! My schedule is just upside down now and DST just double whammed me on the same weekend I started my late night work. Still getting used to the weird hours. I also wanted to spend some time on the negotiations with Iran over its nuke program so I had to catch up with the news. I’m glad BB’s post was so good because I can see you’ve spent a lot of time commenting on what’s going on in Indiana with its so-called “religious freedom” bill.
Obviously, there are going to be several sides to the “deal” depending on your views and their connections to US/Israel policy. So, I thought I’d highlight a few. Max Fisher–writing for VOX–says the deal is “astonishingly good.”
When Aaron Stein was studying nuclear non-proliferation at Middlebury College’s Monterey graduate program, the students would sometimes construct what they thought would be the best possible nuclear inspection and monitoring regimes.
Years later, Stein is now a Middle East and nuclear proliferation expert with the Royal United Services Institute. And he says the Iran nuclear framework agreement, announced on Thursday, look an awful lot like those ideal hypotheticals he’d put together in grad school.
“When I was doing my non-proliferation training at Monterey, this is the type of inspection regime that we would dream up in our heads,” he said. “We would hope that this would be the way to actually verify all enrichment programs, but thought that would never be feasible.
“If these are the parameters by which the [final agreement] will be signed, then this is an excellent deal,” Stein concluded.
The framework nuclear deal establishes only the very basics; negotiators will continue to meet to try to turn them into a complete, detailed agreement by the end of June. Still, the terms in the framework, unveiled to the world after a series of late- and all-night sessions, are remarkably detailed and almost astoundingly favorable to the United States.
Like many observers, I doubted in recent months that Iran and world powers would ever reach this stage; the setbacks and delays had simply been too many. Now, here we are, and the terms are far better than expected. There are a number of details still to be worked out, including one very big unresolved issue that could potentially sink everything. This is not over. But if this framework does indeed become a full nuclear deal in July, it would be a huge success and a great deal.
The NYT editorial board calls the deal “promising.”
Iran would shut down roughly two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used to fuel a bomb and agree not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent (a much lower level than is required for a bomb) for at least 15 years. The core of the reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, another key ingredient for making a weapon, would be dismantled and replaced, with the spent fuel shipped out of Iran.
Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House, insisted he was not relying on trust to ensure Iran’s compliance but on “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program.”
There is good reason for skepticism about Iran’s intentions. Although it pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons when it ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, it pursued a secret uranium enrichment program for two decades. By November 2013, when serious negotiations with the major powers began, Iran was enriching uranium at a level close to bomb-grade.
However, Iran has honored an interim agreement with the major powers, in place since January 2014, by curbing enrichment and other major activities.
By opening a dialogue between Iran and America, the negotiations have begun to ease more than 30 years of enmity. Over the long run, an agreement could make the Middle East safer and offer a path for Iran, the leading Shiite country, to rejoin the international community.
According to Reuters, Iranians were celebrating in the street as the deal was announced yesterday. The country has been living under harsh embargoes which have obviously hurt ordinary people.
Iranians celebrated in the streets after negotiators reached a framework for a nuclear accord and U.S. President Barack Obama hailed an “historic understanding”, but senior global diplomats cautioned that hard work lies ahead to strike a final deal.
The tentative agreement, struck on Thursday after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return.
It marks the most significant step toward rapprochement between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution and could bring an end to decades of Iran’s international isolation.
But the deal still requires experts to work out difficult details before a self-imposed June deadline and diplomats said it could collapse at any time before then.
We have reaction to the deal from the GOP and from former SOS Hillary Clinton as reported by CNN.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the deal — aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear capabilities — “will only legitimize those activities.”
“Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting U.S. and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort,” Bush said. “I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.”
Clinton, meanwhile, held up the tentative agreement as an “important step” in preventing a nuclear Iran.
“Getting the rest of the way to a final deal by June won’t be easy, but it is absolutely crucial. I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation,” Clinton said in a statement. “The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high. It can never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
But the former secretary of state allowed leeway for herself in case things go awry in the coming months, stating, “There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead, but for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”
The rest of the Republican field, however, coalesced around rejecting the deal.
Making his first trek to Iowa as an announced presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz contended the President must bring Congress into the process.
“The very first step for any deal, good or bad, should be submitting it to Congress, and the President making the case both to Congress and to the American people why this advances the national security interests of the United States,” Cruz told reporters after a town hall in Cedar Rapids. “Now everything President Obama has said up to this date has suggested that he is going to do everything he can to circumvent Congress.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the early details of the agreement as “very troubling” and said “this attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran.”
Obama pushed to quiet skeptics of the framework during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden Thursday, asking, “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”
Peter Baker–writing for the NYT–calls the deal a “foreign policy gamble”.
As Mr. Obama stepped into the Rose Garden to announce what he called a historic understanding, he seemed both relieved that it had come together and combative with those in Congress who would tear it apart. While its provisions must be translated into writing by June 30, he presented it as a breakthrough that would, if made final, make the world a safer place, the kind of legacy any president would like to leave. “This has been a long time coming,” he said.
Mr. Obama cited the same John F. Kennedy quote he referenced earlier in the week when visiting a new institute dedicated to the former president’s brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” The sense of celebration was captured by aides standing nearby in the Colonnade who exchanged fist bumps at the end of the president’s remarks.
But Mr. Obama will have a hard time convincing a skeptical Congress, where Republicans and many Democrats are deeply concerned that he has grown so desperate to reach a deal that he is trading away American and Israeli security. As he tries to reach finality with Iran, he will have to fend off legislative efforts, joined even by some of his friends, to force a tougher posture.
The WAPO Editorial Board was critical of the deal.
THE “KEY parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.
That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.
Mr. Obama argued forcefully — and sometimes combatively — Thursday that the United States and its partners had obtained “a good deal” and that it was preferable to the alternatives, which he described as a nearly inevitable slide toward war. He also said he welcomed a “robust debate.” We hope that, as that debate goes forward, the president and his aides will respond substantively to legitimate questions, rather than claim, as Mr. Obama did, that the “inevitable critics” who “sound off” prefer “the risk of another war in the Middle East.”
The proposed accord will provide Iran a huge economic boost that will allow it to wage more aggressively the wars it is already fighting or sponsoring across the region. Whether that concession is worthwhile will depend in part on details that have yet to be agreed upon, or at least publicly explained. For example, the guidance released by the White House is vague in saying that U.S. and European Union sanctions “will be suspended after” international inspectors have “verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear related steps.”
Obviously, Bibi is beside himself.
“I just came from a meeting of the Israeli cabinet. We discussed the proposed framework for a deal with Iran.
The cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal.
This deal would pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the State of Israel.
The deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop R&D on Iran’s advanced centrifuges.
On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran’s illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place.
The deal would lift sanctions almost immediately and this at the very time that Iran is stepping up its aggression and terror in the region and beyond the region.
In a few years, the deal would remove the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, enabling Iran to have a massive enrichment capacity that it could use to produce many nuclear bombs within a matter of months.
The deal would greatly bolster Iran’s economy. It would give Iran thereby tremendous means to propel its aggression and terrorism throughout the Middle East.
Such a deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb.
Is he the little boy that has cried wolf too often?
Anyway, I hope you’ll read up on the situation since it stands to be one of the biggest foreign policy agreements for quite some time.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?