Sunday Reads: Apollo 13 and Midget Mansion

a2828e0d67a998272aebc61c0f4adb0eGood Morning

It is another year…for me at least…44 of them! I don’t have any plans today, except sit and worry about my Bebe who is off in Chicago. She has a performance today and then the competition tomorrow afternoon before she heads back to Banjoville.

A long ass bus ride back to Banjoville.

l-p15tgzo47f97a6Anyway, before I get to the links just a quick note about the pictures for today’s post. They are all centered around the Apollo 13 mission that took off exactly 44 years ago today.  Links to photo galleries at the end of this thread.

On to the newsy stories.

The latest on that horrific bus crash in California is confusing. Bus crash: Witness says FedEx truck lost control while changing lanes

A witness to Thursday’s deadly tour bus crash said the driver of the FedEx truck appeared to lose control while changing lanes before barreling across the center median of Interstate 5 and colliding head-on with a tour bus filled with high school students.

af13b91b9fd5110c11240fb43c7441d2Ryan Householder told The Times on Saturday that he was mowing his lawn, which faces the southbound lanes of the highway, when he heard screeching tires Thursday. He looked up and watched the crash occur. The drivers of both vehicles were killed as were eight people on board the tour bus.

[...]

Householder, 31, said the FedEx truck, hauling two trailers, was in the slower of two southbound lanes behind a red van, he said. The truck tried to merge into the faster lane, he said, but there were two cars there.

At that point, the truck driver seemed to lose control of his vehicle, Householder said. The truck shot across the grassy median, shearing the tops off bushes that separate the northbound and southbound lanes.

The truck began straightening out, Householder said, but by that time it was already on the northbound lane and it collided with the bus carrying high school students on their way to Humboldt State University.

“When they collided, it was boom!” he said. Both vehicles erupted into fire.

The truck, Householder said, was not on fire before the crash.

c98ce7e19c8423a1c74ae9378b5ad4c8However this is differs from another eyewitness earlier story: ORLAND, Calif: Conflicting accounts emerge about deadly California bus crash |

Bonnie and Joe Duran told TV reporters in Northern California late Friday that their Nissan Altima was sideswiped by the truck before it collided head-on with the bus. They said flames were visible from the big rig as it crossed the median and hit their car.

“It was on fire already,” Bonnie Duran said.

Investigators have not publicly responded to the Durans’ account.

Cameron Birk, the couple’s son-in-law, told The Times Saturday that he has talked to Joe Duran several times since the accident. He said Duran told him the couple were driving northbound on the interstate in the left lane, with Bonnie at the wheel, when they first saw the FedEx truck. Bonnie jerked the wheel to the right to avoid a head-on collision.

“The truck was already on fire when it had crossed the median,” Birk recalled Joe Duran telling him. “They were the first car it hit, so they just jerked the wheel hard and got side-wiped.” They spun out and got thrown into a ditch, Birk said.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/12/224252/conflicting-accounts-emerge-about.html#storylink=cpy

World news is buzzing:

5d06c9b5640305ad7f39b74f40457615Thousands in Paris and Rome protest austerity measures | Al Jazeera America

Tens of thousands of people took part in protests in central Paris and Rome, organized by hard-left parties opposed to government economic reform plans and austerity measures.

Police in Rome armed with batons charged members of a large splinter group — many wearing masks and helmets — and also used tear gas to push back the crowd, with protesters fighting back with rocks and firecrackers. One man lost a hand when a firecracker exploded before he could throw it.

There were dozens of lighter injuries among police and protesters, and at least six arrests, police said.

The protest was organized as a challenge to high housing costs and joblessness as a result of Italy’s long economic slowdown. The procession made its way peacefully through central Rome until the more violent element wearing helmets started throwing objects at police near the Labor Ministry.

220c50b4a7a1db8872ce833884cb0318And in a West Virginia water chemical crap spill of epic proportions: China: Water ban for millions after oil spill hits refinery town | Al Jazeera America

A crude oil leak from a pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) is to blame for water contamination that has affected more than 2.4 million people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou, in the the landlocked northwest part of the country, according to Chinese media reports Saturday.

The leak poisoned the water source for a water plant, introducing hazardous levels of benzene into the city’s water, according to China’s official news agency Xinhua.

Residents scrambled to buy bottled water after authorities warned against using taps, in scenes reminiscent of a municipal water ban in the United States, following a coal-processing chemical spill that affected 300,000 West Virginians in January.

Xinhau cited Yan Zijiang, Lanzhou’s environmental protection chief, as saying that a leak in a pipeline owned by Lanzhou Petrochemical Co., a unit of CNPC, was to blame for the water contamination.

Read more on the pollution regulations they are trying to reign in over there in China.

Down Under: Tropical Cyclone Hits Australia As ‘One Of The Most Powerful Storms’ In ‘Living Memory’ | ThinkProgress

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Housewife Bakery, Homeless Mother and More Wealthy People

c39676d524606b13ffa2d8ec05b4edb4Good Morning All…

It was so distressing for to see one of our Sky Dancing family have such a traumatic reaction to one of our post a few days ago, I could somewhat understand, as my rape experience comes back in nightmares…and even in flashes of memory during times when I least expect it. But I could not think of anything to say, of any words to offer that would be consoling…it was like I froze up. I was afraid to even look at the comments yesterday. I did not want to face up to it.

Why couldn’t I do that? What was making me recoil from the blog like that?

I feel so bad, and still do not know what to say to my dear one, who know who she is…

I’ll try to keep from lingering on the issue, but there are a few disturbing stories I am bringing y’all today that will probably rub salt in old wounds.

97860f7a2e8862c9a245cd2a33dad7c5First some good and happy news, on Friday Bill Elliott’s son Chase Elliott won his first Nationwide Series NASCAR race: Dawsonville’s Chase Elliott wins first Nationwide race at Texas

Hometown hero Chase Elliott used a strong move on the outside to pass Kevin Harvick for the lead at Texas Motor Speedway and then sailed away his first career Nationwide Series victory.

The 18-year-old won in his sixth career start and is the second youngest winner in series history. He’s roughly four months older than Joey Logano, who was 18 years and 21 days when he won his first career Nationwide race in 2008.

Elliott won in a Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, driving the No. 9 as a tribute to his father, 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott.

“I can’t believe it, just to have the opportunity to race with these guys at JR Motorsports, just to have this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any racer who wants to make it to the top,” Elliott said. “It just means the word for me to be here.”

Elliott became the fourth driver in Nationwide history to earn his first series victory at Texas, joining Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Trevor Bayne.

Chase is finishing his senior year of high school…my dad worked for Bill here in Banjoville when Chase was born…and it is a funny thing. See, Daddy put up the wallpaper in Chase’s nursery, and now look at what the kid has done!

On another personal note, hurray:  UConn beats Florida 63-53 to make NCAA final. (I went to UConn for my Paralegal degree…)

And…one more, the title of this post is referring to the Housewife Bakery in Tampa, Florida.

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When I was a little girl we would drive by this bakery every day except Sundays. It was on the way to my ballet studio…and the name of the place always pissed me off!

I would always complain, “Why would they call that Housewife bakery, how sexist!”

Ugh, it still rubs me the wrong way.

cc2e17e9952a4bed0024c1e4dcfc52fbOkay on with the rest of the links.

News on  MH370: Second pulse detected in hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

A Chinese ship searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has detected a pulse signal for a second time, Australian co-ordinators say.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston called the discovery in the southern Indian Ocean an “important and encouraging lead” but warned that there was no confirmation of a link to flight MH370.

He told reporters that the second signal was monitored for about 90 seconds and was detected less than 2 km (1.2 miles) from the original.

Update on a case in China where the school children were poisoned to death: Chinese kindergarten head sentenced to death for child poisoning | The Raw Story

A Chinese court has sentenced the head of a kindergarten and an accomplice to death for killing two children with poisoned yoghurt in northern China, state-run media reported Sunday.

Kindergarten head Shi Haixia poisoned the children last year in a revenge attack aimed at a rival school in Hebei province which had higher enrollment, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

A court in Hebei sentenced Shi and an accomplice to death, while another person was given a five-year jail sentence, the report 795c693b5dd20367351574ed25c3432dsaid.

Two village girls died after their grandmother found the yoghurt, which was laced with rat poison and placed on a roadside along with several notebooks, state media reported earlier.

The children, whose ages were not given, were found “foaming at the mouth,” the report said. One died before reaching hospital while the other died after receiving treatment.

China has a shortage of state-run kindergartens, and competition between private profit-driven institutions can be intense.

And in another horrifying news story dealing with a young girl: Senegalese law bans raped 10-year-old from aborting twins | Global development | theguardian.com

A 10-year-old girl who is pregnant with twins after she was raped by a neighbour has been forced to continue with her pregnancy after human rights campaigners lost their fight to secure a legal route to abortion.

The plight of the girl, who is five months pregnant and lives in Ziguinchor in the south, highlights the heavy cost women and children are paying for a Napoleonic law on abortion that is still in force in the former French colony.

“She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy,” said Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese women lawyers’ association. “The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care.

Senegal‘s abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years.”

It is sickening.

e9e4fd84aaddf005ab79b0d710f22bf0But there is more disgusting shit…this time back here in the US: 6 suspended amid Missouri school rape allegations – Yahoo News

Months after vowing to boost security at a Kansas City school where a student says she was dragged to a room and raped, district officials have suspended six employees amid new allegations from a 14-year-old girl who alleges a boy repeatedly raped her at school.

The girl in the latest case, who the police report describes as autistic, told authorities the 14-year-old boy raped her “on numerous occasions” over the last month at Southwest Early College Campus while a 13-year-old girl stood in the hall as a lookout. The boy and the alleged lookout were charged Wednesday in juvenile court with one count each of rape and sodomy and ordered to remain detained Friday.

The school district began its own investigation after learning of the new allegations Wednesday. Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green said in a statement released Thursday the district has placed “a number” of school employees on administrative leave and that other personnel could be put on leave depending on the outcome of the district’s probe.

“Once the investigation is complete, a final decision will be made about whether they will continue as employees of KCPS or will be dismissed,” Green said in his statement.

Please read more of the details of all these stories at the links.

I am going to move on to more newsy reads for you after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday: V-J Day, Goodbye Kisses, Working Women and Warning Signs

54178c4d97b3668cb079ff3c12ef35d8Good Morning

I think it will be safe to say that today’s post is retro, super retro. And I really do not have all the space I need to post all the historic pictures I would like to post…so there will be links to other pages/galleries, and you must spend some time looking through the fascinating images.

Like the one to the right ———–>

Look at the expression on that woman’s face, if she could slam that thermos up-side the guy’s stupid head she would…but she appears too damn tired of hearing the kind of shit he is saying to even bother replying to the asshole.

At least the tag line on the bottom of the poster got it right:

America’s Women Have Met the Test!

Too bad that opinion did not last when the boys came back home.

cab40a4e5ea83e324782208ec2734216I often wonder what would have happened if the Republican push to get women and their views on politics back in the kitchen was not as successful as it was during the 5o’s…can you imagine?

Anyway, this may seem a little familiar to my post from Wednesday, but there is a reason for this opening thought:

You must have heard that the sailor in one of the most iconic pictures of World War II died last week…V-J Day, 1945: A Nation Lets Loose | LIFE.com

Glenn McDuffie, a Navy veteran who long claimed to be the sailor photographed kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J day — and whose claim was reportedly backed up by a police forensic artist — has died. He was 86 years old. (LIFE magazine — in which the now-iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo first appeared — never officially identified either the sailor or the nurse.)

01_00141661Made almost 70 years ago, it remains one of the most famous photographs — perhaps the most famous photograph — of the 20th century: a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in August 1945.

That simple, straightforward description of the scene, however, hardly begins to capture not only the spontaneity, energy and sheer exuberance shining from Alfred Eisentaedt’s photograph, but the significance of the picture as a kind of cultural — indeed a totemic — artifact.

15_05531421“V-J Day in Times Square” is not merely the one image that captures what it felt like in America when it was finally announced, after a half-decade of global conflict, that Japan had surrendered and that the War in the Pacific — and thus the Second World War itself — was effectively ended. Instead, for countless people, Eisentaedt’s photograph captures at least part of what the people of a nation at war experience when war, any war, is over.

Glenn Edward McDuffie, who long claimed to be sailor in iconic Times Square  ‘kiss’ photo at end of WWII, dies  – NY Daily News

McDuffie, who passed away Sunday in Texas, had said he was motivated to randomly kiss the pretty nurse on the day Japan surrendered because it meant his brother would be getting released from a Japanese prison campTimes Square V-J Day Kiss

The Texas man who made headlines for his repeated claims to being the sailor who randomly kissed a woman in Times Square, leading to one of the most iconic photographic images of World War II, has died.

Glenn Edward McDuffie passed away at age 86 on Sunday in Texas after suffering a heart attack at a casino earlier in the day, his daughter told the Daily News.

McDuffie claimed for years he was the strapping sailor who planted one on the lips of the swooning woman on August 14, 1945. He said it was a spontaneous act of unbridled euphoria sparked by the announcement of Japan’s surrender.

The Life magazine photographer who took the famed shot, Alfred Eisenstaedt, did not record the names of the subjects, and many people have claimed to be the mysterious sailor. In 2007 noted forensic artist Lois Gibson, who works for the Houston Police Department, said she positively identified McDuffie as the sailor. Her technique was to take numerous pictures of the older McDuffie and overlay them over the original. By doing so she said she compared the sailor’s muscles, ears and other features to McDuffie’s, and found them to be a match.

Take a look at the rest of that NY Daily News piece, it has later pictures of McDuffie along with some photos of him when he was young…and other older interview quotes as well.

But back to the Life Magazine link for a little more:

…two small but significant pieces of information related to Eisenstaedt’s rightfully famous “Kiss in Times Square” might come — especially when taken together — as a real surprise to fans of both photography and of LIFE magazine in general.

First, contrary to what countless people have long believed, the photo of the sailor kissing the nurse did not appear on the cover of LIFE. It did warrant a full page of its own inside the magazine (page 27 of the August 27, 1945, issue, to be exact) but was part of a larger, multi-page feature titled, simply, “Victory Celebrations.”

Closely tied to that first point is the fact that while the conclusion of the Second World War might be something LIFE magazine, of all publications, could be expected to feature on its cover for weeks on end, the magazine’s editors clearly had other ideas. post_1267972In fact, not only did Eisensteadt’s Times Square photo not make the cover of the August 27th issue; no image related to the war, or the peace, graced the cover. Instead the magazine carried a striking photograph of a ballet dancer.

An underwater ballet dancer.

War is over! that cover seems to say.

After years of brutal, global slaughter, our lives — in all their frivolous, mysterious beauty — can finally begin again.

Amen to that.

Some of the pictures in that Life Magazine’s gallery are beautiful, they have published pictures that were not published in the original 1945 piece. Like this one below, of the V-J Day reaction in Hollywood:

11_00267533

I love that woman’s shoes! This article also is connected to another WWII era gallery at Life, Fighting Words: World War II Battlefield Signs | LIFE.com

00600729.JPGThe universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” the American poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, and more and more, as time goes by, that sounds about right.

But what if paying strict heed to every written word that one saw every single day meant the difference between survival and annihilation? What if the misreading of a sign on an unfamiliar road, for example, meant not the inconvenience of a missed turn, but a sudden, violent death?

Take your Atabrine, an anti-malaria drug. Sign was put up at the 363rd station hospital in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Take your Atabrine, an anti-malaria drug. Sign was put up at the 363rd station hospital in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Here, LIFE.com takes a look at some of the countless signs that troops encountered during the course of World War II, from the islands of the Pacific to the deserts of North Africa to the ruined cities of Europe. Official warnings; adamant instructions; wry, handwritten inside jokes — all of them silent reminders of a conflict that, until the very end, dished out one paramount, universal command: Pay attention!

So again, check that link out along with the following:

d5eb019a959d5f074b8a7121137129eeWWII Signs on Pinterest

Women in WWII on Pinterest

Alfred Eisenstaedt Life Photographer on Pinterest

WWII on Pinterest

On the Job in WWII – Rosie and Friends. on Pinterest

This last board has some posters from WWI as well:

Vintage Ads, Billboards, Signs, Posters on Pinterest

Here are your newsy links for today, after the jump.

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Sunday Reads: Updates and Comebacks

DCF 1.0Good Morning

Can you believe it is December 1st? Honestly, I can’t.

What an exhausting year this has been, to think it is almost over.

Anyway, here are your reads for this morning, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians protest plan to relocate Bedouins.

Thousands of Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank demonstrated Saturday against an Israeli government plan that in some cases would relocate Bedouins from traditional lands in the Negev desert to urban communities.

Some of the gatherings turned violent, with 28 protesters arrested and at least 15 police officers injured, one of them stabbed. Police fired stun grenades, tear gas and skunk water to disperse demonstrators.

The “Day of Rage” was called as the Israeli parliament was preparing to give final approval to what has become known as the Prawer Plan, named after an Israeli government official who wrote it.

Israeli officials say the plan was reached after extensive consultation with Bedouin leaders. It would provide recognition and previously denied services for some Bedouin communities that have been viewed by the Israelis as squatters on state land and relocate others while providing some compensation.

The controversial plan faces strong opposition from many Bedouins, who say it would in effect expropriate 200,000 acres of Arab land and forcibly relocate more than 40,000 Bedouins.

The protest have even spread to the UK: Day of Rage Rocks Israel, Spreads to UK.

Meanwhile, U.S. airlines complying with China’s new airspace demands.

U.S. airline officials say they are complying with new State Department guidance urging carriers to alert China before any flights pass through that country’s new self-declared air-defense zone.

Airline officials said Saturday that compliance would not disrupt travel to Asia, since they already communicate with any government when crossing through or over foreign territory.

In US politics: N. Georgia key battleground in Senate GOP primary

At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains sits one of the most Republican congressional districts in the country that is home to Georgia’s governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.

The 9th Congressional District and the nearby 14th district are considered the heart of the GOP in Georgia and will be key battlegrounds in a fiercely contested Republican primary next year for an open U.S. Senate seat, a race that will be watched nationally as Democrats look to thwart efforts by Republicans to take control of the Senate.

While not as populous or packed with deep-pocket donors as metro Atlanta, the two districts in north Georgia offer a strong and reliable base of fiscal and social conservatives and are largely up for grabs considering no major candidate has a direct link to the area.

Yeah this is my district, the Saxby Chambliss district….according to that article, 20 percent of the state’s Republican voters are in these districts.

All the top candidates have already made trips and are expected to keep visiting ahead of the May 20 primary. The voters are used to seeing their elected officials and are known for asking tough questions.

“They are a lot like Iowa caucus voters. They expect to see their candidates in the flesh,” said Lake, who recently left the Senate campaign of Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, citing differences in opinion, and is no longer aligned with a candidate in the race.

A number of voters who attended a recent congressional hearing in the 9th district said they remain undecided. Besides Gingrey, the other major candidates are tea party favorite Rep. Paul Broun of Athens; Karen Handel, who has a statewide grassroots organization from her previous campaigns; fundraising leader Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah; and David Perdue, cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue and past CEO of Dollar General and Reebok.

Ugh. More disgust at the link, with no possible chance of getting a decent representative in Washington D.C.

Another link on an asshole of another kind: Seattle Asshole Demands Employee Firing Over Bar’s Google Glass Policy

The most absolute awful thing about the story of Nick Starr is not that he exists, but that there are surely more people like him: the Seattle IT drone threw a Facebook fit when he was asked to take off his face-camera at a cafe. “I would love an explanation, apology, clarification…or her termination.”

Read the rant at the link above.

Here’s the logic: the ability to covertly take pictures of people and perhaps post them to Twitter—as Starr has done in the past—shall not be infringed upon. Any attempts to subvert this divine right will be attacked in kind. This is an ostensibly carbon-based life form arguing for garnished wages or a lost job because he couldn’t wear a face computer into a watering hole.

Those Google Glass things are over the top and cross the line…and that this asshole has taken pictures of people in the bathroom and put them online…geez what a dickhead.

Okay, two links about JFK:

PBS show on JFK assassination ‘rigged’ and ‘biased,’ author says

In Wednesday’s Nova special on the JFK assassination, private investigator Josiah Thompson is an avuncular presence, repeatedly explaining what happened on Nov. 22, 50 years ago in Dallas.

But Thursday the author of Six Seconds in Dallas said he was “outraged,” calling the program “rigged.”

He wasn’t accusing “Cold Case: JFK” of faking or staging any tests, but said the program failed to fully examine acoustic evidence that suggests four shots were fired that day, because doing so might have derailed the show’s conclusion, that Lee Harvey Oswald was probably the only gunman.

Another View: Seven reasons to reject the Warren Report – California Forum – The Sacramento Bee

Jack Ohman suggested “we see what we want to see” regarding the JFK assassination (“Kennedy slaying answers elude us”; Forum, Nov. 17). Marcos Breton blamed our skepticism on advancing age: “It’s the ultimate baby boomer fetish,” he scoffed (“Count me out of the JFK club”; Our Region, Nov. 17).

If you still think the Warren Report is an example of a trustworthy, paternal federal government here to help you, listen up.

Remember the auction of Classic Movie Memorabilia? If you are curious as to how much some of those items ended up going for, check it out here: Classic Movie Memorabilia

ICONIC MALTESE FALCON LEAD STATUETTE FROM THE 1941 FILM  Sold for $4,085,000  At the TCM / Bonham's Auction Nov 23,2013

ICONIC MALTESE FALCON LEAD STATUETTE FROM THE 1941 FILM Sold for $4,085,000 At the TCM / Bonham’s Auction Nov 23,2013

Angela Lansbury is making a comeback. No, she is not dead. Hold Up–Angela Lansbury Is Returning To The Stage

Hold Up--Angela Lansbury Is Returning To The Stage

In breaking entertainment news that is sure to get me 500 billion clicks today alone, Angela Lansbury is set to make her triumphant, beautiful return to the stage. After a more than 40 year absence from the London stage, Jessica Fletcher Lansbury will star in a West End revival of Noel Coward’s play Blithe Spirit.

TCM has been showing some crappy movies lately, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Please. Hopefully they get back to the good stuff soon.

Anyway, this next article is interesting too, from BBC News – A visit to a hidden coca plantation

The Peruvian government says it is committed to eradicating the coca leaf, from which cocaine is made – but a walk in the jungle suggests that for cash-strapped farmers, it is not an easy choice.

I should probably have listened just a little more carefully when the farmer answered my question.

I had asked if she would show me where her hidden coca plantation was – and what she said was: “Yes, of course, but it will mean a bit of walking.”

Now, I like walking, I walk for pleasure. But what a Peruvian farmer means by a “bit of walking” turned out to be rather different from what I mean.

We were in the region known as the High Amazon. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Green, lush hillsides and steep wooded valleys, where the foothills of the Andes meet the Amazon jungle. Traditionally it has been one of the main production centres for Peruvian cocaine.

And from coke production to art history: Vermeer’s Secret Tool: Testing Whether The Artist Used Mirrors and Lenses to Create His Realistic Images | Vanity Fair

David Hockney and others have speculated—controversially—that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas—the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller—may have solved the riddle.

In the history of art, Johannes Vermeer is almost as mysterious and unfathomable as Shakespeare in literature, like a character in a novel. Accepted into his local Dutch painters’ guild in 1653, at age 21, with no recorded training as an apprentice, he promptly begins painting masterful, singular, uncannily realistic pictures of light-filled rooms and ethereal young women. After his death, at 43, he and his minuscule oeuvre slip into obscurity for two centuries. Then, just as photography is making highly realistic painting seem pointless, the photorealistic “Sphinx of Delft” is rediscovered and his pictures are suddenly deemed valuable. By the time of the first big American show of Vermeer paintings—at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 1909—their value has increased another hundred times, by the 1920s ten times that.

Despite occasional speculation over the years that an optical device somehow enabled Vermeer to paint his pictures, the art-history establishment has remained adamant in its romantic conviction: maybe he was inspired somehow by lens-projected images, but his only exceptional tool for making art was his astounding eye, his otherworldly genius.

That is a long read…complete with videos.

Have a good day, and think of this as an open thread.


Saturday Reads

reading the news

Good Morning!!

There’s a little breaking news this morning. The Guardian reports: China scrambles fighter jets towards US and Japan planes in disputed air zone.

China scrambled fighter jets to investigate US and Japanese aircraft flying through its new air defence zone over the East China Sea on Friday as the regional clamour over the disputed airspace escalated.

The ministry of defence announced the move, which is the first time China is known to have sent military aircraft into the zone alongside foreign flights, stepping up its response to the challenge after its unilateral establishment of the zone. It previously said it had monitored US, Japanese and South Korean aircraft and had flown routine patrols in the area on Thursday.

The ministry’s statement said two US reconnaissance aircraft and 10 Japanese early warning, reconnaissance and fighter planes had entered the zone.

The airforce “monitored throughout the entire flights, made timely identification and ascertained the types”, defence ministry spokesman Shen Jinke told the official China News Service.

Meanwhile, according to The New York Times,

Even as China scrambled fighter jets to enforce its newly declared air defense zone, the Obama administration said on Friday that it was advising American commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands to be notified in advance of flights through the area.

While the United States continued to defy China by sending military planes into the zone unannounced, administration officials said they had made the decision to urge civilian planes to adhere to Beijing’s new rules in part because they worried about an unintended confrontation.

Although the officials made clear that the administration rejects China’s unilateral declaration of control of the airspace over a large area of the East China Sea, the guidance to the airlines could be interpreted in the region as a concession in the battle of wills with China.

“The U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with” notice requirements “issued by foreign countries,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that that “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements.”

Just what we need, a fight with China….

We may shoot first

Meanwhile North Korea is still holding Merrill Newman an 85-year old American who fought in Korea as a young man and had arranged a trip to visit the places he remembered. From Reuters, via the Times of India:

SEOUL: North Korea said on Saturday it had arrested US citizen Merrill E Newman for “hostile acts” against the state and accused him of being “a criminal” who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Newman “masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea apparently forced the elderly man to make a confession and apologize on video.

In a separate dispatch, KCNA carried what it said was a statement of apology by Newman, made after being detained.

“During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as advisor of the Kuwol Unit of the U.N. Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command,” it said.

The unit appears to refer to one of the special operations units of partisan, or irregular, fighters acting against the North.

Newman, who had been visiting North Korea as a tourist, has been held in Pyongyang since officials took him off an Air Koryo plane that was scheduled to leave the country on October 26.

I really feel for Newman and his family. His wife must be frantic. The Daily Mail has photos and more details on the “apology.”

A video has been released by the North Korean government showing detained American veteran Merrill Newman, 85, admitting to being ‘guilty’ of crimes including killing innocent civilians when he was a soldier in the Korean War.

Newman, who has not been heard from since he was detained on October 26, is seen reading a four-page hand-scribbled letter on camera in an undisclosed location in the video released on Saturday.

The veteran from California looks uneasy in the video, and with shaking hands apologizes for what he supposedly did 60 years ago.

‘I realize that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me,’ he reads.

There’s much much more on the public humiliation of this poor man. I hope he wasn’t tortured. Watch the video at the link if you want. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I just kept thinking of my Dad who was a WWII veteran. I would really like to know what the U.S. is doing to get Newman out of North Korea. It could be time for another rescue trip by Bill Clinton. 

woman-reading-newspaper

CNN is out with a new poll that found lots of Americans are unhappy with the way things are going in the U.S. these days.

[A] CNN/ORC International survey released Friday also indicates that less than a quarter of the public says that economic conditions are improving, while nearly four in ten say the nation’s economy is getting worse.

Forty-one percent of those questioned in the poll say things are going well in the country today, down nine percentage points from April, and the lowest that number has been in CNN polling since February 2012. Fifty-nine percent say things are going badly, up nine points from April.

Well, that isn’t too surprising, since the economy has been just awful for the vast majority of Americans for a very long time now. Good to know that more than half of the people polled have noticed something is off.

Besides an obvious partisan divide, which contributes to a urban-rural gap, the survey also indicates a difference of opinion between younger and older Americans.

“There’s a slight generational divide, with 46% of those under age 50 saying things are going well. That number drops to 36% for those 50 and older,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

So either older people are paying closer attention, or they can remember the pre-Reagan days when there was less income inequality; while younger people can’t recall a time when the economy was doing well.

It’s likely some of the negativity Americans are feeling is a reaction to the media’s constant trashing of the Affordable Care Act AKA “Obamacare.” This morning Reuters is reporting the the federal health care website–which was supposed to be fixed by today–is still experiencing problems and has been temporarily shut down.

Just hours before the Obama administration’s self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the “vast majority” of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.

It was unclear whether the extended shutdown of the website – about seven hours longer than on typical day – represented a major setback to the Obama administration’s high-stakes scramble to fix the portal that it hopes eventually will enroll about 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website’s disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama’s administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied….

After weeks of round-the-clock upgrades of software and hardware, Obama officials said they were poised to successfully double its capacity by this weekend, to be able to handle 50,000 insurance shoppers at one time.

Paul Krugman defends the program based on a “dramatic” reduction in health-care costs that no one else in the media can be bothered to report.

Much of the Beltway establishment scoffed at the promise of cost savings. The prevalent attitude in Washington is that reform isn’t real unless the little people suffer; serious savings are supposed to come from things like raising the Medicare age (which the Congressional Budget Office recently concluded would, in fact, hardly save any money) and throwing millions of Americans off Medicaid. True, a 2011 letter signed by hundreds of health and labor economists pointed out that “the Affordable Care Act contains essentially every cost-containment provision policy analysts have considered effective in reducing the rate of medical spending.” But such expert views were largely ignored.

So, how’s it going? The health exchanges are off to a famously rocky start, but many, though by no means all, of the cost-control measures have already kicked in. Has the curve been bent?

The answer, amazingly, is yes. In fact, the slowdown in health costs has been dramatic….

Since 2010, when the act was passed, real health spending per capita — that is, total spending adjusted for overall inflation and population growth — has risen less than a third as rapidly as its long-term average. Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly.

Read the rest at the link.

debbie harry reads

Edward Snowden is still in the news, and there’s talk of making him “person of the year.”  That would mean lots more money and attention for Glenn Greenwald. The latest link doesn’t seem that exciting to me–but what do I know? From The National Post: NSA tracked online sex activities of suspected terrorists, latest Edward Snowden leaked documents reveal.

LONDON — The American spy agency NSA tracked the online sexual habits of suspected terrorists in an attempt to expose them as hypocrites.

Details of the exercise emerged Wednesday in the latest leak of classified documents by the leaker Edward Snowden.

The spy agency identified six targets, all of whom were Muslim, as examples of how electronic surveillance could be used to gather potentially embarrassing information on individuals, such as evidence of visits to pornography sites.

One of the six “globally resonating foreign radicalizers” is believed to be a U.S. resident while the others live outside America. None of the targets, whose names have been redacted, is accused of being involved in terrorist plots.

I guess I should be all upset about this, but for some reason I’m a lot more freaked out by breadlines in NYC, the ongoing war against women, and the possibility of Republicans taking over the Senate and/or the White House.

A little more worrying is the possibility that the Greenwald/Snowden cult might decide to release the names of U.S. and U.K. intelligence agents. The Daily Telegraph: NSA terror over ‘doomsday’ cache of secrets stashed in online cloud by Edward Snowden 

U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a ‘doomsday’ cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.

The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter said.

The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters….

One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden’s ‘insurance policy’ against arrest or physical harm.

U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public.

Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories.

Ironically, Snowden himself is living under the thumb of Russian security services, according to a recent story at al Jazeera. 

After a dramatic arrival and a prolonged confinement at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the United States government on espionage charges, has quietly vanished into a life of seclusion.

Nobody seems to know exactly where one of the most wanted and famous men in the world lives, who protects him or how he spends his days — beyond learning Russian and reading Dostoyevsky. Such glimpses into his life have been offered to the public by his Russian lawyer and de facto spokesman, Anatoly Kucherena.

Kucherena is a on the board of the FSB, Russia’s powerful intelligence agency.

“We know at this point that he’s not free,” said Yuri Felshtinsky, a Russian scholar who has written extensively about the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Felshtinsky, who believes the FSB controls Snowden, called the American exile a “Christmas gift” for President Vladimir Putin’s “public relations war” with the United States….

“He’s always going to be monitored and watched,” said Peter Savodnik, a journalist and author of a recently published book about another famous American defector who grew tired of his Soviet exile: Lee Harvey Oswald. “If he doesn’t already want to leave, he’s going to want to leave very soon.”

Good luck with that.

Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following? Even if you’re just lazing around enjoying the final hours of the long weekend, please leave a comment or two and let us know what’s happening where you are.