So, I’m going to write briefly about something that’s been fascinating me lately. That’s the incredible decrease in oil prices and the impact that it’s having on Russia and other oil producing nations outside of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia . I’m a sucker for a good currency crisis since it’s basically right up my research alley.
Also, oil has been one of those commodities that’s pretty much dominated my adult life. I remember having to buy gas on even days because the Dealer’s tags on our cars ended in 8 during the oil crisis. I know what it did to my dad’s business as a car dealer. Basically, oil’s been the most fungible commodity in modern times. No modern economy can live without it. We’ve definitely fought wars to control it. Oil’s being weaponized like never before.
There are several key factors driving down your gas at the pump. First, the global economy has slowed down so that the demand for oil has tapered off. That’s one thing that’s been at play. But the more interesting factor has been the increase in supply which is related to the interesting way that Saudis have been ignoring OPEC quotas and inching up the supply. There’s been some rumors going around–actual conspiracy theories– that they are doing so for three reasons. First, they want to make sure that the nascent tar sands oil industry in North America isn’t profitable. Second, they want to hurt Iran, Syria, and Iraq and any other Shia nation involved with oil production. The third reason is to get at Russia. I want to share what I’ve found on these fronts with you. It has the feel of a new kind of cold war and the opposite of the gas wars of the 1970s.
Russia just experienced a “Black Monday” in that the Russian Stock market has collapsed as has the ruble. The Russia economy is heavily dependent on oil exports so any decrease in oil prices has an impact. These continued price decreases have their economy on the verge of failure. The entire situation has been exacerbated by UN Sanction against the country for its invasion and intervention in the Ukraine. It’s not pretty.
In recent weeks, the fall in the Russian ruble and Russian stock markets closely tracked the declines in global oil prices. But everything changed on December 15. The oil price remained stable, but the ruble and the stock-price indices lost 30% in the subsequent 24 hours. An unprecedented effort by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) in the wee hours of December 16 to stabilize the ruble, by hiking the interest rate from 10.5% to 17%, proved useless.
The cause of Russia’s “Black Monday” was readily apparent: the government bailout of state-owned Rosneft, the country’s largest oil company. Usually, bailouts calm markets; but this one recalled early post-Soviet experiments, when the CBR issued direct loans to enterprises – invariably fueling higher inflation. The CBR’s governor at the time, Viktor Gerashchenko, was once dubbed the world’s worst central banker.
In 2014, the CBR is more constrained than it was in Gerashchenko’s era: it cannot lend directly to firms. Yet it has also become more sophisticated at achieving the same ends that Gerashchenko sought.
In October, Rosneft issued $11 billion worth of ruble-denominated bonds (an unparalleled amount for the Russian market, equivalent to 70% of the total value of corporate bonds issued in Russia this year). The coupon on these bonds was actually 1.5 percentage points below sovereign bonds of similar maturity, which is also unusual, especially given that Rosneft currently is subject to Western sanctions.
Then, unnamed investors (allegedly the largest Russian state banks) benefited from the CBR’s decision on December 12 to allow these bonds to be used as collateral for three-year CBR ruble loans at the policy rate. Moreover, the CBR scheduled a special auction for such loans on December 15 – with the total amount of the loans similar to that of Rosneft’s bond issue. Thus, the CBR would be able to provide a massive pile of rubles to Rosneft at below-market rates. So why did the deal trigger a panic?
At first glance, this deal was intended to meet contemporary Russia’s most important economic challenge. Sanctions have cut off Russian banks and companies from Western financial markets. Russian companies have to repay or refinance about $300 billion of debt over the coming two years. Some of this debt is owed to Russian companies’ offshore owners, who will certainly be happy to roll it over. But in most cases, firms’ liabilities comprise real debt owed to major international banks.
Global investors are anxiously awaiting some kind of strategy for recovery. Actions by the Central Bank of Russia have been very curious. All of the countries that depend on oil exports for huge amounts of their funding are in trouble. Russia is probably just the most obvious of them. This goes for Iran also. That’s because both of them are heavily weighed down by UN sanctions.
The non-OPEC producing countries (Russia, Brazil and Norway, as examples) are starting to become backed into an economic corner. In all of these countries, oil represents a major export and helps finance other economic activities. For example, as Russia sells oil in the open market (priced in dollars) at $60 per barrel, the revenue in dollars is 50 percent less than was the case in June of this year. Since June, the Russian Ruble has declined by 59 percent (to the U.S. dollar). A “crash” in the value of any currency leads to very high inflation (imports are now more expensive than would have otherwise been the case), which leads to potential civil unrest. On a global scale, the “wealth” of Russia as a nation, priced in Rubles, has declined by 59 percent in the last six months.
This is the stuff that leads to revolutions. Oil, other commodities and vodka are about the only exports Russia creates and helps fund their country’s spending. They are net importers of most all consumption goods (health supplies, food, etc.). In their own currency, those imports are now 59 percent more expensive than they were this past summer.
To some, the problem Russia currently faces sounds like something Vladimir Putin created by his dalliances in the Crimea and Ukraine. There is some truth to this as those actions led to economic sanctions unleashed by the West on Russia. The oil pricing issue is indirectly due to his destructive behavior. What really matters to the rest of the world at this stage is the potential for economic weakness to spread to the rest of the world from Russia… monetary contagion, anyone?
How would this happen? Why would the rest of the world be negatively affected by weakness in the Russian Ruble? Russia’s economy is the world’s eighth largest (as measured by the IMF ), a little larger than Italy and a little smaller than Brazil. At about $2.1 trillion in GDP, Russia is dwarfed by the United States at $17.5 trillion. If Russia’s economy contracts by 4 percent (which potentially is in the cards for 2015), it will impact the world’s GDP by about $84 billion, or .1 percent. No big deal. However, let’s think not about the world’s income statement (GDP) but rather about the world’s balance sheet – the world’s banking system.
Most Russian national debt is priced in Rubles and the value of that debt has collapsed from six months ago when the Ruble was higher and Russian interest rates were dramatically lower. Russia’s public debt is $216 billion. The Russian benchmark interest rate was at 7.5 percent in June of this year – that interest rate is now 17 percent.
How much this impacts any other country has a lot to do on how many banks hold Ruble-denominated assets or liabilities. The interesting thing is that Saudi Arabia seems no where done with its dalliance in increasing oil supply. This particular bit of news is what motivated me to finally bring this up here. The emirates and Saudi Arabia seem willing to dig into their own sovereign wealth and their countries’ spending to see this through. They must be extremely serious about something. Is it the threat from Shia Muslims? From US Fracking Oil? Do they just plain hate the Russians?
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Thursday endorsed a 2015 budget that projects a slight increase in spending and a significant drop in revenues due to sliding oil prices, resulting in a nearly $39 billion deficit
In a sign of mounting financial pressure, the Finance Ministry said the government would try to cut back on salaries, wages and allowances, which “contribute to about 50 percent of total budgeted expenditures.” That could stir resentment among the kingdom’s youth, who make up a majority of the population and are increasingly struggling to find affordable housing and salaries that cover their cost of living.
The price of oil— the backbone of Saudi Arabia’s economy — has fallen by about a half since the summer. Saudi Arabia is extremely wealthy, but there are deep wealth disparities and youth unemployment is expected to mushroom absent a dramatic rise in private sector job creation. The International Monetary Fund says almost two-thirds of employed Saudis work for the government.
A the height of Arab Spring protests sweeping the region in 2011, King Abdullah pledged $120 billion to fund a number of projects, including job creation and hikes in public sector wages. The move was largely seen as an effort to appease the public and blunt any challenges to monarchical rule.
Associate Fellow and energy researcher at Chatham House, Valerie Marcel, said massive government spending across the Gulf on public sector salaries is “really the thing that keeps the lid on the bottle.” She said that for now the Arab monarchies of the Gulf can afford to run deficits due to surpluses accumulated over the years from high oil prices.
Now that’s commitment. There’s actually some discussion around that the US and the Saudis basically colluded to drop oil prices. This all is happening while OPEC has called for widespread production cuts. Anyone with a little game theory background along with economics know that this is a deadly game. The ones that cut their production will lose income.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.
However, analysis shows the reasoning is complex, and may go beyond simply taking down the price to gain back lost marketshare.
“What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil?” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro asked rhetorically in October. “To harm Russia.”
Many believe the oil price plunge is the result of deliberate and well-planned collusion on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia to punish Russia and Iran for supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria.
Punishing Assad and friends
Proponents of this theory point to a Sept. 11 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was during that meeting that a deal was hammered out between Kerry and Abdullah. In it, the Saudis would support Syrian airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS), in exchange for Washington backing the Saudis in toppling Assad.
If in fact a deal was struck, it would make sense, considering the long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its chief rival in the region: Iran. By opposing Syria, Abdullah grabs the opportunity to strike a blow against Iran, which he sees as a powerful regional rival due to its nuclear ambitions, its support for militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and its alliance with Syria, which it provides with weapons and funding. The two nations are also divided by religion, with the majority of Saudis following the Sunni version of Islam, and most Iranians considering themselves Shi’ites.
“The conflict is now a full-blown proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is playing out across the region,” Reuters reported on Dec. 15. “Both sides increasingly see their rivalry as a winner-take-all conflict: if the Shi’ite Hezbollah gains an upper hand in Lebanon, then the Sunnis of Lebanon—and by extension, their Saudi patrons—lose a round to Iran. If a Shi’ite-led government solidifies its control of Iraq, then Iran will have won another round.”
The Saudis know the Iranians are vulnerable on the oil price. Experts say the country needs $140 a barrel oil to balance its budget; at sub-$60 prices, the Saudis succeed in pressuring Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, possibly containing its nuclear ambitions and making the country more pliable to the West, which has the power to reduce or lift sanctions if Iran cooperates.
Adding credence to this theory, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting earlier this month that the fall in oil prices was “politically motivated” and a “conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world.”
So, you can see, there’s a little bit of economy theory blended with conspiracy theory here. Frankly, I”m all for Saudi Arabia crippling American Fracking even though I’m sitting in a state where things will only go from bad to worse in this situation. (Although I will mention I’m actively looking at real estate in Washington State right now.)
Despite repetition in countless media accounts and analysts’ notes over the past few weeks, though, the idea of a “sheikhs vs. shale” battle to control global oil supplies has precious little evidence behind it. The Saudi-led decision to keep OPEC’s wells pumping is a direct strike by Riyadh on two already hobbled geopolitical rivals, Iran and Russia, whose support for the Syrian government and other geostrategic machinations are viewed as far more serious threats to the kingdom than the inconvenience of competing for market share with American frackers.
Among the world’s oil producing nations, few suffer more from the Saudi move than Tehran and Moscow. At a time when both are already saddled with economic sanctions — Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons technology — the collapse of oil prices has put unprecedented pressure on these regimes. For Russia, the crisis has hit very hard, with the ruble losing 40 percent of its value to the dollar since October. This is particularly problematic since Russian state-owned oil firms have gone on a dollar-borrowing spree in recent years; now, servicing that debt looks very ominous.
True, Saudi OPEC minister Ali al-Naimi insisted last month that the move was intended to target shale. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? After all, his OPEC counterparts were standing beside him — including the OPEC minister from Iran.
The fact is, Saudi Arabia has little to fear from shale. Saudi Arabia’s huge reserves of conventional oil can and probably will be produced for decades after the shale boom has run its course — which the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects to happen by 2050 or so — and at much lower costs.
So, that one could be just a conspiracy theory. Anyway, it is very interesting situation that seems to converge economics with geopolitics. It won’t be the first time that oil and other commodities have been used as weapons. The Spanish Empire was taken down by its gold lust and hoarding by Good Queen Bess as one example. It’s really interesting no matter what the rationale.
For all our worries over Russia, however, we in Britain should not lose sight of the humiliation of another swaggering and once-mighty force in world politics, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). When it burst on the world scene 40 years ago, OPEC terrified the wasteful West.
Over the previous decades, we had grown used to abundant oil, bought mostly from Middle Eastern producers — with little global muscle — at rock- bottom prices.
However, OPEC changed that. By restricting supply, the cartel quadrupled the oil price, from $3 to $12.
Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there. Above, the country’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Naimi
That is only a fraction of today’s price — but the oil crisis sparked by the rocketing cost in 1974 was enough to lead to queues at filling stations and national panics in the pitifully unprepared industrialised world.
Four decades later, Saudi Arabia has become one of the richest countries in the world, with reserves totalling nearly $900 billion.
But the rest of the world is less at its mercy than it once was. Here in Britain, our energy consumption is dropping remorselessly — the result of increased energy efficiency.
Moreover, many other nations now produce oil. And oil can be replaced by other fuels, such as natural gas, which OPEC does not control.
Also, OPEC no longer has the discipline or the clout to dominate the market, and we in Britain are among the big winners from all this, reaping the benefits of lower costs to fill up our cars and power our industries.
At its meeting in Vienna last month, the OPEC oil cartel — which controls nearly 40 per cent of global production — faced a fateful choice.
Would it curb production and thus, by reducing supplies, try to ratchet the oil price back to something near $100 a barrel — the level most of its members need to balance their books? Or would it let the glut continue?
The organisation’s 12 member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela and Nigeria, chose to do nothing, proving that its once-mighty power has withered. Oil prices subsequently fell even further.
One central problem is that several of OPEC’s members detest each other for a variety of reasons.
Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.
They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
In Moscow, Vladimir Putin does not have that luxury — and the Saudis know it.
They revile Russia, too, for its military support of President Assad, and for its sale of advanced weapons to Iran.
So there’s the piece on why Russian and Iran are targeted. Anyway, unless you’re a CIA analyst specializing that area with access to all the back and forth, it’s hardly possible to untangle all these wicked webs. It is evident, however, that the Saudis have some bones to pick with a lot of folks and picking away they are.
It will be interesting to watch this unfold. I have no doubt this will have bigger implications and I also know that most folks aren’t following this. I’m also pretty sure the usual news outlets are giving this short shrift. You can tell if you if follow any of my links because only one goes to the NY Times. The rest are mags that are read by very few folks.
So …. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.
Reactions to Obama’s speech
From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.
President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.
In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.
“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.
But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.
All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”
The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.
In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.
Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.
“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”
In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.
Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.
According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.
Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.
Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.
In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.
At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.
Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.
It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
A couple more interesting stories to check out:
Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.
Violence Against Women News
I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.
The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”
Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter. The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.
In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.
“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.
She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.
On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.
The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.
That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.
The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”
Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.
The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.
I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.
ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.
Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.
One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.
“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.
The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.
“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.
“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”
There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.
A few more links:
NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?
Other News, Links Only
The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.
Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.
Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.
That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.
Things are heating up all over, in a literal, political and actual sense.
Meanwhile I feel as if I am stuck inside a glass tube of Vaseline…where I cannot move or see and I feel trapped in a situation were everything is close around me. Yesterday, my mom found out she needs to take insulin shots…she is now diabetic. But the Medicare does not cover her prescription for the shots. It is 300 bucks a month. WTF? I don’t understand this crap at all.
There’s ther stuff going on that I can’t get into now, so just letting you know that things are real shitty here, and I may need to take a break for a few days to get my bearings.
Now for today’s links…
I don’t know what to make of this headline from the New York Times:
President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen rather than an aerial bombardment, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.
Such a campaign, using either drones or fighter jets, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days, until the United States gathers adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad.
Even the most ambitious aerial campaign envisioned by administration officials would be far more limited in scope than the one conducted during the Iraq war, this official said, because of the relatively small number of militants involved, the degree to which they are dispersed throughout militant-controlled parts of Iraq and fears that using bigger bombs would kill Sunni civilians.
It all makes my head hurt.
But what deserves a laugh is the latest from Glenn Beckistan: Glenn Beck: ‘Liberals, You Were Right,’ We Should Never Have Gone into Iraq | Mediaite
Glenn Beck led off his radio show on Tuesday morning with a stirring monologue about all the ways he believes the left and right can come together to “heal” America. As part of that, Beck suggested that perhaps all Americans can come together to recognize the blunder that was invading and occupying Iraq in 2003 — an act that he now regrets having supported.
After listing the Veterans Affairs Department scandal and the fight against Common Core standards as two ways in which the left and right can unite, Beck asserted that “maybe we could come together now on this nightmare in Iraq.”
He then took a contrite tone and admitted [emphasis ours]:
From the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t. At the time I believed that the United States was under threat from Saddam Hussein. I really truly believed that Saddam Hussein was funding terrorists. We knew that. He was funding the terrorists in Hamas. We knew that he was giving money. We could track that. We knew he hated us. We knew that without a shadow of a doubt. It wasn’t much or a stretch to believe that he would fund a terror strike against us, especially since he would say that. So I took him at his word.
[…] Now, in spite of the things I felt at the time when we went into war, liberals said: We shouldn’t get involved. We shouldn’t nation-build. And there was no indication the people of Iraq had the will to be free. I thought that was insulting at the time. Everybody wants to be free. They said we couldn’t force freedom on people. Let me lead with my mistakes. You are right. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.
Well, blow me down!
Here’s another shocking bit of right-wing reactions to scratch your head about…first the news bit: U.S. captures suspected ringleader of 2012 attack in Benghazi | Reuters
The United States said on Tuesday it had captured a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador and ignited a political firestorm in Washington.
President Barack Obama said in a statement he had authorized the operation in Libya on Sunday, in which U.S. special operations forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah. He told an audience later in Pittsburgh that Khatallah was being transported to the United States.
“Since the deadly attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans,” he said in a statement. He said Khatallah would “face the full weight of the American justice system.”
Khatallah’s capture was a victory for Obama, who has been accused by Republicans of playing down the role of al Qaeda in the 2012 attacks for political reasons and being slow to deliver on promises of justice.
Which is all well and good, but as Maddow made clear on her show last night: U.S. Got the Suspect and ‘Benghazi Central’ Fox News Doesn’t Care? | Mediaite
For the past 21 months in a row, conservative media outlets have kept hammering away at Benghazi, saying the Obama White House covered something up, accusing the president of dredging up other issues to distract from Benghazi, and crying foul that no one has been brought to justice for the attack. Well, today one of the alleged perpetrators of the attack was captured by U.S. special forces, and so Rachel Maddow was absolutely bewildered to see the reaction on conservative media from Drudge Report to “Benghazi Central” Fox News, ranging from either ignoring the big news or furiously spinning it as a negative for the administration.
Maddow reminded viewers that the “all-Benghazi, all-the-time Fox News Channel” is the network that basically started ignoring President Obama‘s speeches and press conferences unless he starts talking about Benghazi. And the reaction on Fox News today to the news was to question the suspicious timing of the capture.
Maddow was amused that “the take on Fox News is that’s not actually news” after all the time and space they’ve devoted to hammering away at Benghazi, and now “they have to make it bad news, they have to make into maybe a scandal itself.”
Damn Fox News.
One more Foxy link for you, only this time it deals with Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton on FOX News with Greta Van Susteren and Brett Baier | Still4Hill
Hillary walked right into the mouth of the dragon and shot her fire extinguisher all over the flames.
In fact I did not expect Greta to be hard on her, and she was not except that once the record got a little stuck on a Fourth Amendment question. Later, Greta admitted that despite all prior interviews with Hillary she did feel stressed and later wished she had had more time. For my money they could have given Greta Brett’s time.
In response to something from Brett, she suggested that people read the unclassified ARB Report.
Another Hillary link: Hillary Clinton notes distance from Obama on Syria rebels | Reuters
Potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out her differences with President Barack Obama on Tuesday over his decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels, as neighboring Iraq struggles to cope with extremist spillover from Syria.
“We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the president,”
Clinton said in a CNN interview.
The former secretary of state said she, along with the then heads of the Pentagon and CIA tried but failed to persuade Obama to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but that the White House resisted.
Clinton said it was not clear whether arming moderates in Syria would have prevented the rise of the al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has swept toward Baghdad aiming to build a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian border.
“It’s very difficult, in retrospect, to say that would have prevented this,” she said. She said it is too soon to tell whether American policy in Syria was a failure.
The countdown is began and ended here in Georgia as the BBC is picking up on the story: Georgia in first US execution since botched attempt
The US state of Georgia is set to execute the first person in the US since a botched lethal injection in Texas in April.
Marcus Wellons, who raped and killed a 15-year-old in 1989, is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday evening.
A last-minute appeal over the source of the drugs is with the US Supreme Court.
Wellons is one of three set to die in the next 24 hours, after nine executions were stayed since one in Oklahoma went wrong seven weeks ago.
Officials in Oklahoma halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after he began making noises, and he died of a heart attack less than an hour later.
Like Oklahoma, Georgia refuses to say where they are obtaining drugs for lethal injections, or if they are tested.
Lawyers for Wellons, as well as others on death row, have challenged such secrecy in court.
Well, the execution went on as expected: UPDATE: Marcus Wellons has been executed | www.ajc.com
Since I am writing this post only a few minutes after his death has been confirmed I will update this story in the comments below.
One thing all these stories have threaded together is a subject of hard news…Why Audiences Hate Hard News—And Love Pretending Otherwise – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic
You may not realize this, but we can see you. Yes, you. The human reading this article. We have analytics that tells us roughly where you are, what site you’ve just arrived from, how long you stay, how far you read, where you hop to next. We’ve got eyeballs on your eyeballs.
Why is it so important that digital news organizations track which articles you’re reading on our websites? The obvious answer is that it teaches us what you’re interested in. The less-obvious, but equally true, answer is that it teaches you what you’re interested in.
If we merely asked what you wanted, without measuring what you wanted, you’d just keep lying to us—and to yourself.
Here’s what I mean by lying. This year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism asked thousands of people around the world what sort of news was most important to them. The graph below shows the responses from Americans. International news crushed celebrity and “fun” news by a margin of two-to-one. Economic and political news finished even higher.
It is an interesting thing…as far as what is most important compared to what the people actually read.
Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.
Audiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes. At the Aspen Ideas Festival last year, Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for Al Jazeera America, shared survey data suggesting that 40 to 50 million people were desperate for in-depth and original TV journalism. Nine months later, it averaged 10,000 viewers per hour—1.08 percent of Fox News’ audience and 3.7 percent of CNN. AJAM, built for an audience of vegetarians, is stuck with a broccoli stand in a candy shop.
The culprit isn’t Millennials, or Facebook, or analytics software like Chartbeat. The problem is our brains. The more attention-starved we feel, the more we thirst for stimuli that are familiar. We like ice cream when we’re sad, old songs when we’re tired, and easy listicles when we’re busy and ego-depleted. The Internet shorthand for this fact is “cat pictures.” Psychologists prefer the term fluency. Fluency isn’t how we think: It’s how we feel while we’re thinking. We prefer thoughts that come easily: Faces that are symmetrical, colors that are clear, and sentences with parallelisms. In this light, there are two problems with hard news: It’s hard and it’s new. (Parallelism!)
Since we are talking about people who lie about reading news stories, what about something dealing with handwriting. What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades – NYTimes.com
Does handwriting matter?
Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.
But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.
Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.
Could there be a connection be handwriting, news reading habits and education development?
A 2012 study led by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, lent support to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again.
The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.
By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.
Dr. James attributes the differences to the messiness inherent in free-form handwriting: Not only must we first plan and execute the action in a way that is not required when we have a traceable outline, but we are also likely to produce a result that is highly variable.
That variability may itself be a learning tool. “When a kid produces a messy letter,” Dr. James said, “that might help him learn it.”
Finally, the last “news read” I have for you today could fall in the “fun” category. Stamp sells for record $9.5 million in New York
An incredibly rare 19th century postage stamp, a tiny one-cent magenta from British colonial Guyana, sold for $9.5 million in New York on Tuesday, setting a new world record.
Bidding began at $4.5 million and it took just two minutes to sell the stamp to an anonymous bidder on the phone, although the auction house Sotheby’s had valued the tiny specimen of British colonial memorabilia at $10-20 million.
“With the premium the stamp has just sold for approximately $9.5 million, which means it has set a new world record price for a stamp,” David Redden, Sotheby’s director of special projects, told a packed room in New York.
Can you believe it? 9.5 million dollars? Wow…
So what “candy” are you reading about today?
Although I know most of you here read “vegetables” all day long.
Happy Father’s Day
(And that goes out to you especially Ralphie boy!)
I don’t know, but from the looks of that
old comic there ————->
…it would be safe to guess that ugly dog face men with cow ears and no bodies lurk on Channel X.
Actually, one of those things looks like Herman Munster.
Okay, seriously. This is going to be a quickie post, my internet is acting up and the service keeps freezing up on me.
Today’s post will have images of comic monsters, furry…slimy things. Monsters that are funny looking.
First up a series of news links:
The United States has ordered an aircraft carrier into the Gulf in response to the crisis in Iraq.
The Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, says Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave the order that the USS George H.W. Bush move from the North Arabian Sea to the Gulf Saturday.
Kirby says the order provides President Barack Obama “additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq.”
A guided-missile cruiser and a guided-missile destroyer will accompany the aircraft carrier.
In another development Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country is ready to help Iraq if asked, and would consider working with Tehran’s longtime foe, the United States, in fighting Sunni extremists if Washington decides to take strong action against the fighters. Iran has developed close ties in recent years with the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday his national security advisers are preparing “a range of options” for U.S. assistance to Iraq’s government as it faces an assault by al-Qaida inspired Islamist militants.
The president said the militants who have overrun parts of Iraq are a threat to the Baghdad government and people throughout the country, and pose an active threat to American interests as well. He said division among Iraq’s leadership has led to the current crisis.
According to news reports by Reuters, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Washington’s assistance would only work if Iraqi leaders “overcame deep divisions.” The top U.S. diplomat communicated the information in a Saturday phone call with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Recent cases are only the tip of an ‘endemic’ problem that runs deep in the region’s societies, says senior Amnesty researcher Divya Iyer.
Meanwhile here in the States…we have a year to date total on the number of children deported back to Mexico, via Raw Story: More than 6,000 Mexican ‘unaccompanied minors’ sent back from U.S.
More than 6,000 Mexican children and teens who crossed unaccompanied and illegally into the United States were repatriated in the first four months of this year, Mexican officials said Saturday.
In nearly all cases, the children had already been arrested at least once, and some more than five times, in attempts to cross the US border.
The children make the grueling journey of hundreds of miles (kilometers) through Mexico to escape dire economic conditions and violence in their home countries, and to join relatives in the United States.
“From January 1 to April 30, 2014, the Mexican consular network offered assistance to 6,233 unaccompanied Mexican minors… in the process of their repatriation to Mexico,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.
Of them, nearly 77 percent had been detained more than once in attempts to cross the border, and 21 percent had been previously been held more than five times.
On the domestic terrorist front:
This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the wake of Sunday’s deadly attacks in North Las Vegas, at the hands of two antigovernment “Patriot” extremists, Infowars host Alex Jones warned his listeners that the media would soon start claiming that there’s a connection between his conspiracist media operation and the killers.
As a matter of fact, Jerad Miller – the 31-year-old Indiana man who led the attack, assisted by his 22-year-old wife, Amanda – liked to post on the Infowars member forum. And he constantly promoted Infowars on his Facebook page.
In one of his Infowars posts, Miller even speculated about whether or not he should kill police officers.
“The emerging narrative in the Las Vegas shooting now includes Alex Jones,” the Infowars site complained shortly after news of the shootings broke. In short order, Jones began calling the shootings a “false flag operation” secretly staged by nefarious federal government operatives who set it up to look like it was a crime committed by domestic terrorists.
“The incident is custom-made to demonize the patriot movement,” the Infowars site claimed. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has consistently attempted to forge a link between white supremacists and members of the patriot and constitutional movements.”
Jones became downright imaginative, explaining to his listeners, in one rant, how he would go about setting up the murders if he were a government agent, and then warning that the shootings mean that “civil war is coming”. He also began assigning responsibility for the “false flag operation.” In one rant, he accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of being behind the crimes. In another, it was the work of President Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Jones’ wild claims must be intended to distract from the fact that, as Media Matters reported, Miller avidly posted Infowars links on his Facebook page and urged his readers to the website – saying, in one such post, to “get informed or get stupid”.What those claims fail to explain is why, beginning in May 2012, Jerad Miller became an Infowars forum member and began posting long pieces there. In all, he appears to have published five posts, though one of them titled “A Short Story About Protesting” is no longer available.
By far the most striking and disturbing of these posts is the May 28, 2012, post he titled: “The Police (to kill or not to kill?).” Most of it is devoted to him explaining at length that he’s mostly a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t steal from people, but police oppression over his marijuana business is driving him to think of violence: “I am like a wild coyote,” he wrote. “You corner me, I will fight to the death.” He continued:
I feel that I have been violated and tread upon. That the so called justice system has done me harm. I do not wish to kill police. I understand that most of them believe they are doing the right thing. Yet, I will not go to jail, because I have not committed a crime! I would rather die than be labeled as a criminal. Let them call me a terrorist. Let them label me as a fanatic, some nut job. I know the truth, and so does God. I’m sure our founding fathers were labeled as such.
It concluded with what appears in hindsight to be a conclusion:
So, do I kill cops and make a stand when they come to get me? I would prefer to die than sit in their jail, when I have done nothing to hurt anyone.
Jones is also in the news for this recent shit story: Alex Jones and gun advocate Larry Pratt: Obama training military to attack the Tea Party
Right Wing Watch reported that Pratt was appearing on Jones’ Infowars radio show when the two began to discuss the furor that surrounded a 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security that warned of a possible rise in far-right extremist violence in the United States.
Jones and Pratt declared that the DHS report was a plot against conservatives and that Pres. Obama is planning on using an obscure law passed in 2010 as justification for the use of military force against members of the Tea Party.
The conservative Washington Timesreported the story as if Obama had invented a provision of federal law that allowed for intervention by the military on domestic soil “in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible.” However, the clause is a longstanding one that has been in effect under many presidents.
Jones, however, interprets the law to be official confirmation that the U.S. military is, at this moment, “training with tanks, armored vehicles, drones” to “take on the American people, mainly the Tea Party.”
“Well, he’s certainly not thinking that Muslims are a threat,” Pratt replied, “so he’s turning to his political opponents, declaring that they’re the enemy and ignoring the fact that Muslims from time to time have a tendency to go ‘boom.’”
Regarding another domestic terrorist shooting: Oregon school shooter’s journal reveals he was devout Mormon out to kill ‘sinners’
The diary of the 15-year-old Oregon high schooler who shot and killed a classmate and injured a teacher before turning the gun on himself revealed that the teen was a religious fundamentalist who was out to kill “sinners.”
According to the New York Daily News, freshman Jared Padgett was known at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Gresham, OR as being quiet, but was “highly regarded for his spirituality” by church elders.
Padgett walked into Reynolds High School last Tuesday carrying “an AR-15 type rifle, a semi-automatic handgun, ammunition and a large knife,” and opened fire, killing freshman Emilio Hoffman. Portland’s KGW reported that police found the teenager’s journal while searching through the belongings he left behind.
A police source told the TV station that Padgett did not name specific students or teachers in his plans, but was rather on a mission to cleanse the world of “sinners.”
But hey, let’s not just catch up on the killers. Check out some other classy folks, this one in Florida: Florida Mom Kidnaps Daughter to Avoid Vaccines, Learning Black History
A mother in Sunrise, Florida is now facing a federal criminal charge after disappearing with her two-year-old daughter last month in order to avoid having her vaccinated. (This served the dual purpose of keeping her from being “brainwashed” and keeping her out of school, where she might learn about black history).
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Megan Elizabeth Everett, 22, disappeared on May 6th after Robert Baumann—with whom she shares custody of their daughter, Lilly—dropped Lilly off at her home. Everett was supposed to return Lilly a week later, in compliance with a shared custody agreement, but never showed up. She instead left a note for Baumann, saying:
“You are a great dad. If I let them take her and vaccinate her and brainwash her, I wouldn’t be doing what’s right. I cannot let a judge tell me how my daughter should be raised. We will miss you. But I had to leave.”
A warrant for Everett’s arrest was issued on May 19, on charges of kidnapping, interference with custody, and concealing a minor contrary to a court order. The federal charge accused Everett of crossing state lines to avoid prosecution for the state charges.
This is probably going to end up sad…as you can imagine, Everett lived with her mother until she:
…became involved with a man named Carlos Lesters, at which point she severed ties with her family.
The Sun-Sentinel states that court documents describe Lesters as a “Confederate-flag-waving gun enthusiast with family members in Georgia and Kentucky.”
Robert Baumann, who had planned to vaccinate his daughter and enroll her in preschool the next time he had custody, said:
“One of the issues we had was, she wanted to home-school my daughter. I didn’t want that to happen. She didn’t want Lilly to learn about black history. She just wanted her to learn about the Confederacy.” … “She found this new idea that vaccines are horrible. I think she wanted to keep her from being vaccinated because that would keep her out of day care.”
After Lilly’s disappearance, Sunrise police went to her last known address, where they found Lesters. He told them that Everett and her daughter were gone and “not coming back.” The federal criminal complaint states:
“Lesters informed detectives that Everett … knew she would have to live her life as a fugitive. However, in her mind, the time that she spent with her daughter ‘free’ of Baumann would be ‘worth it,’ regardless of how brief the time was.”
Everette and Lilly are still missing…(Updated to include picture of Everette and Lilly.)
More GOP crazy, only with a touch of reason: GOP Candidate Condemns Her Own Husband’s ‘Inappropriate’ Remarks | Mediaite
When was the last time you heard about a politician disavowing or condemning something their own spouse said? Well, Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst did just that this week when she publicly expressed how “appalled” she was by her husband’s past outlandish comments about former Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano.
According to The Des Moines Register, Ernst’s husband referred to Napolitano as a “traitorous skank” on Facebook last year, and a month before that he made a joke about shooting an ex-wife. And in addition to that, he also once called Hillary Clinton a “hag.”
Reached for public comment about her husband’s posts, Ernst was unequivocally outraged.
“I’m appalled by my husband’s remarks… They are uncalled for and clearly inappropriate. I’ve addressed this issue with my husband and that’s between us.”
Meanwhile, Gail Ernst took down those posts in questions and posted an apology to his Facebook page.
Good for her!
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor bumped into Hillary Clinton at a Costco in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday.
Someone else was shopping there too…go see who at the link.
Rest of the links will be in dump fashion.
… hundreds of volunteers — mostly Northern white college students — who descended on Mississippi during what came to be known as “Freedom Summer.” They came to register blacks to vote, and to establish “Freedom Schools” and community centers to help prepare those long disenfranchised for participation in what they hoped would be a new political order.
Opposition was brutal. Churches were bombed, volunteers were arrested, beaten — even murdered.
In his 16 years as the Catholic Church’s top official in New York, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor was a staunch friend and defender of the Jewish people.
He spoke often about what he had seen at Dachau as a Navy chaplain. He used his platform as head of the Archdiocese of New York to support Soviet Jewry, and played a role in the Vatican’s recognition of the state of Israel. Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Bronx-born Jew who worked closely with the cardinal, proclaimed that he loved him “like a brother.”
Yet there was something Cardinal O’Connor apparently never knew: His mother was born a Jew, the daughter of a rabbi.
This is from OpEdNews.com…so not sure of the veracity. Article: Fukushima’s Children are Dying | OpEdNews
Some 39 months after the multiple explosions at Fukushima, thyroid cancer rates among nearby children have skyrocketed to more than forty times (40x) normal.
More than 48 percent of some 375,000 young people–nearly 200,000 kids–tested by the Fukushima Medical University near the smoldering reactors now suffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, primarily nodules and cysts. The rate is accelerating.
See what I mean. Read it, because it is alarming….even more so if the reports are true.
A couple of links on World Cup 2014:
This next link is from a magazine called the Best of Sicily. After you read it, take a look around the site…it is awesome! Joan of England, Joanna Plantagenet, Queen of Sicily – Best of Sicily Magazine
Since we start with a medieval history link, let’s take a look at a few more…from Medieval.net:
And sticking with old ass news…but not medieval old ass news:
Back in 1953, the world was a different place. We were somewhere between a Truman and an Eisenhower presidency, Dean Martin and Perry Como were leading the charts, and people used these rather crude and uncivilized collections of books called libraries. Egads, how did they live before the internet?
Ron Webster of Derbyshire, England, was working as a research assistant at the social sciences department of the University of Liverpool, and checked out a book from one of these libraries entitled Structure and Function in Primitive Society. But when he left to work in London, he committed the grave crime of forgetting to return his library book.
It wasn’t until very recently, 61 years later, that he discovered the book and realized where it came from. So, he did the honest thing and returned the book. Librarian Phil Sykes was pretty amused at the situation. Via University of Liverpool:
They called me and said you’ve got to come down. There’s a gentleman trying to return a book he took out in 1953. He’s 91-years-old!
I can only think of one thing:
But check out the fees that were owed…
Webster racked up a sizable late fee of £4,510 (20p per day for 22,550 days), but Sykes was kind and sane enough to waive the fee.
“Of course, I cannot condone the late return of books but I remitted the fine of £4,510 on the condition that Mr Webster agreed, henceforth, to live an exemplary life and return all his books on time.”
Well, I will end this post with a tale of a King called Lear: Putting the baa into the Baaard: It’s King Lear with sheep
“A friend of mine has just got back from Harvard,” it reads, “and is putting on a version of King Lear in which the cast is almost exclusively composed of real sheep in Shakespearian costume.”
If you think this is a joke, its not…check out their Facebook page:
A stubborn director is trying to put on a production of King Lear with a cast composed solely of sheep. As expected, his actors are both silent and mutinous. Much chaos ensues. King Lear with Sheep is an experimental re-evaluation of its famous predecessor that overturns theatrical conventions through the startling and revolutionary device of costumed sheep.
Sheep! In tiny costumes!
Capacity is EXTREMELY LIMITED so arrive early if you want a seat! The event is free, but there will be a suggested donation on the door (so I can give my sheep a living wage)
Writer/Director —- Heather Williams
Producer/Assistant Director —- Lucie Elven
Costume Design —- Ava Asaadi, Camille Auclair, Anna Reid
Set Design —- Pippa Scarcliffe
Build Crew —- James Butler
Lighting Design —- Nick Morris
Sound Design —- Cy An
Director —- Alasdair Saksena
King Lear —- Sheep #1
Cordelia —- Sheep #2
Goneril —- Sheep #3
Regan —- Sheep #4
Gloucester —- Sheep #5
Edgar —- Sheep #6
Edmund —- Sheep #7
Kent —- Sheep #8
Some of the sheep will be playing multiple roles. There will be a bar.
I love it!!!!!
Hopefully they post some pictures of the sheep in drag, I mean in costume. If so I will update the thread.
Ah, well…in the words of a famous porker (he’s no sheep mind you.) “That’s all folks!” Y’all have a great day…what are you up to this Father’s Day?
I am excited. Today a FedEx truck will come up my driveway bringing a 15 pound box that found its way from Japan to Louisiana to Memphis to Banjoville. Inside that box is a chrome Piccolo Saori Loom that I have been slowly making layaway payments towards since Thanksgiving.
It is a little loom but it has super big possibilities…
You may remember my big Glimakra countermarche loom is broken down and packed away in storage.
Ugh, all over “away in storage.” The loom is too big anyway to fit in the house we are living in now, so this baby should be perfect.
Under the moonlit sky,
people enjoy dancing,
casting shadows of different shapes.
Misao goes on to say that the haiku:
…implies that once born in the world, we are destined to live different lives.
She grew up following others and had become one of the majority. It was not until it finally hit her and she:
…became aware of the importance of developing a path of my own. I crawled up against a stream and found a beautiful flower garden unfolded before me. In that flower garden I learned that kansei* is inherent in everyone.
kansei*- Misao Jo use of word “meant the significance of an intuitive sense of beauty existing inside of us.”
All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color. Because of this difference, “all are good”. Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick. It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.
Misao Jo, Founder of SAORI
So…that should give you enough information on this new path I am starting on. If you would like to see some pictures of woven Saori, look here:
More images here: Weaving Saori and Around the World Weaving on Pinterest
Okay, the rest of today’s post will be your usual newsy stuff…after the jump of course. Oh, and the pictures, woodblock, painting you see are various Japanese artwork featuring weaving or spinning. (That includes the tattooed women! Tattooing among Japan’s Ainu people .)
Winter weather continues to dominate my world. I was all ready to go out for groceries yesterday when I looked outside and saw snow coming down. Sigh . . .
We’ve got a couple of inches on the ground now–not a big deal except that there are two more storms on the way. We get one day’s respite, and then a big storm on Wednesday (5-9 in.) and a nor’easter coming on Saturday.
The storm we’re getting tomorrow is already impacting the plains states of Oklahoma and Kansas and the Midwest. If you’re in its path, you’d best stay inside and find some indoor activities to keep you occupied–like reading a good book or surfing the internet. Speaking of which, let’s see what’s in the news today.
Here’s some good news from Talking Points Memo: Obama Persuades Dems To Back Off Iran Sanctions, Give Peace A Chance.
Senate Democrats came close to blowing up President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran by toying with a new sanctions bill that negotiators cautioned would poison talks.
But in recent days it has become clear that they’re going to hold off, after aggressive lobbying from the White House, as diplomatic negotiators’ attempt to turn an interim six-month deal struck last November into something more permanent. The goal is to get Iran to surrender its nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for relief from a swath of economically devastating sanctions….
Legislation to beef up sanctions on Iran, authored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has a whopping 58 additional sponsors, 15 of which are Democrats. Criticism of the interim deal from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, boosted the bill. But in the last three weeks, numerous Democrats have backed away and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll wait to see how negotiations play out before considering the sanctions bill.
Obama, Kerry and their top aides pulled Democrats back from the brink by making their opposition to any sort of new sanctions bill clear in a series of public remarks and private face-to-face meetings with top senators. They’ve warned that bringing up a sanctions bill amid talks would empower the hard-liners in Iran, making it politically untenable for President Hassan Rouhani to cut a long-term deal. They’ve conveyed their strong belief that pushing sanctions legislation at this pivotal moment would only increase the chances of a war, according to sources familiar with the matter.
It’s too bad that Obama has to deal not only with Republicans trying to undermine his initiatives, but also with Democrats who seem to be more concerned with what Israel wants then what is best for the U.S.
Recently the Navy has been caught up in a scandal involving “nuclear force officers” caught cheating on proficiency tests. According to Fox News:
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday the number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500.
James spoke to reporters after touring nuclear bases around the country, which The Associated Press has revealed suffers from such low morale and burnout that they have committed serious security lapses other breakdowns.
James, who is new to the job, said the nuclear force is beset by “undue stress and fear,” and said the nuclear force suffers “systemic problems.”
Today we’re learning of a serious fraud scandal in the Army. The Washington Post reports: Army probes allegations of fraud by recruiters and others in enlistment referral program.
Army criminal investigators are probing the actions of more than 1,200 individuals who collected suspect payouts totaling more than $29 million, according to officials who were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation and would discuss them only on the condition of anonymity. More than 200 officers are suspected of involvement, including two generals and dozens of colonels.
The alleged fraud drew in recruiters, soldiers and civilians with ties to the military who submitted, or profited from, false referrals registered on a Web site run by a marketing firm the Army hired to run the program. Suspects often obtained the names of people who had enlisted from recruiters, claimed them as their referrals, and then kicked back some of the bonus money to the recruiters.
The abuse is feared to be so widespread that Army investigators do not expect to conclude all audits and investigations before the fall of 2016.
But there are even more scandals. At the National Journal, Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney offer A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals to help us keep score.
Quite a bit more has come out about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The New York Daily News is now reporting that 70 bags of heroin and numerous prescription drugs were found in the Greenwich Village apartment he was living in had been living in.
Seventy glassine baggies of heroin packed for individual sale — at least 50 of them unopened — were discovered in the $10,000-a-month rental where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday with a needle stuck in his left arm, sources said.
Some of the envelopes had the words “Ace of Spades” written on them, and others were stamped with the name “Ace of Hearts.” Both are brands of heroin that are often cut with a powerful pain reliever called fentanyl, and have become a plague in Pennsylvania, where they were used in 22 overdose deaths.
Police are now trying to learn where Hoffman got the drugs.
Apparently Hoffman had gotten sober when he was 22 years old. He told 60 minutes interviewer Steve Kroft in 2006 that he stopped drinking and drugging because he was “panicked for my life,” and that there were “things I wanted to do” and he wouldn’t be able to do them if he kept on the way he was going. Reportedly Hoffman stayed clean and sober for 23 years, until he began using again in 2013. He checked himself into a brief rehab program last May, but he had been struggling to stay straight since then.
As a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been sober more than 30 years, it’s very difficult for me to read about this. When I went into treatment at age 33, I met people who had been sober for more than 20 years and then drank again. It’s hard to believe, but the disease never goes away no matter how many years go by. And they say if you use again, the results will be much worse than when you quit. It sounds like once Hoffman went back to the drugs, he simply couldn’t stop. Although I am one of the fortunate people who have never had a desire to drink again after I quit, I know it still could happen to me. No recovering person is immune.
Last link on Hoffman: CNN pieced together a timeline of his last couple of days. Some friends said he seemed fine, but his ex-partner told police he seemed high the day before he died. Read more details at the link.
There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about Woody Allen’s creepy interest in young girls, after his adopted daughter Dylan wrote an open letter to The New York Times about her childhood experiences with the famous actor and director. Frankly, I believe her, but as usual many powerful people like Barbara Walters are defending Allen and suggesting that Dylan is either lying or reporting false memories. Of course, these people must ignore the facts that when 7-year-old Dylan first spoke up, Allen had been in therapy for two years for his inappropriate behavior toward her and that the prosecutor in the case found probable cause to charge Allen but felt that Dylan was too fragile to handle a trial. Read the decision in Allen v. Farrow here.
For anyone interested in this case, I recommend reading two long Vanity Fair articles by Maureen Orth–From 1992, Mia’s Story and a follow-up from 2013, Mama Mia! I also want to point to some circumstantial evidence. Of course we all know that Allan began having sex with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when she was barely out of high school; but I didn’t realized until yesterday that Allen’s movie Manhattan was based on a sexual relationship he had with a high school girl when she was 17 and he was in his 40s. Predictably, the girl, Stacey Nelkin is defending Woody Allen today.
…on Monday evening “Piers Morgan Live” welcomed Stacey Nelkin for an exclusive, primetime interview.
Having dated Allen as a teenager, when she was 35 years his junior, Nelkin remains skeptical of the statements penned by Dylan Farrow, who is alleging to have been molested by her adoptive father as a seven-year-old. To Monday’s guest, the latest claims are simply an extension of the ugly separation between Allen, and Dylan’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow:
“These accusations came on the heels of a horrible custody battle, Mia being extremely upset, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she was hell-bent and determined to destroy something that he loved,” said Nelkin, who insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least. “Woody loved Dylan. We were in contact at the time, and he would talk about her a lot. He loved the kids that they had adopted together, and she took Dylan away by creating this whole scenario.”
Maybe Nelkin is hoping Allen will finally acknowledge her and give her a part. She had a small role in Annie Hall, but here performance was left on the cutting room floor. How would Nelkin know what is true–I wonder if she knows that Woody was having sex with Soon-Yi while he was adopting his two children with Mia Farrow?
One more bit of circumstantial evidence from a 1976 People article about Woody Allen’s neuroses:
Woody will admit now only to “dating around” and living with girls for stretches ranging from “two days to two weeks—if you call that living together.” Could he possibly have mellowed from the days when his movies rated horniness as a human malaise second only to bubonic plague? “I try to have sex only with women I like a lot,” Woody explains solemnly. “Otherwise I find it fairly mechanical.” (He has little interest in family life: “It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids. Any fool can do it.”)
He goes on: “I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.” Allen pauses. “Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,” he ventures helplessly. “I admit to it all.”
Okay, enough about the problems and perversions of movie stars. Did you hear about the man who claims he survived being adrift in a boat for more than a year? BBC News:
“I want to get back to Mexico,” Jose Salvador Albarengo reportedly said as he was taken to the islands’ capital, Majuro, for a medical examination.
Mr Albarengo said he left Mexico with a friend for a trip in a fibre-glass boat in December 2012.
He was found by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll on Thursday.
He had initially identified himself to authorities as Jose Ivan.
The castaway told the local deputy US ambassador Norman Barth, who was acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was originally from El Salvador, but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.
Alvarenga, who said he got lost after a shark fishing trip off the coast of Mexico in December 2012, said he survived 13 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean by eating fish, birds and turtles, a representative at the Washington D.C. Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands told ABCNews.com.
The man also scooped up little fish that swam alongside his drifting boat and ate them raw, while also drinking bird blood to quench his thirst, Thomas Armbruster, U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the Associated Press.
Alvarenga told officials he is from El Salvador but had been living and working in Mexico as a fisherman for 15 years before his ordeal.
In December 2012, Alvarenga said he left Mexico in a 23-foot fiber glass boat with a teenage companion named Ezekiel for what was supposed to be a day trip of fishing, the ambassador said.
A storm blew their boat off course, Armbruster said, and caused them to become disoriented and adrift. He said the castaway told him Ezekiel died a month later.
Who knows if it’s true?
Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please post your links in the comment thread.
I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.
I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.
So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.
Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:
Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.
The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:
A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.
On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.
Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.
Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama – promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda – had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.
Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.
The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.
Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.
And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.
Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.
A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.
A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.
The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.
Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.
The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.
A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….
The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.
The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.
The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.
Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:
Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders
Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated
New York Daily News: Another year of the gun
Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)
In other news,
Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah
It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah. The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause. The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists. The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.
I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:
Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional
I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:
The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties