Posted: February 24, 2013 Filed under: Diplomacy Nightmares, morning reads, Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan, Iran, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Africa, DR Congo, Uganda, Political Affective Disorder, health, Fox News | Tags: Academy Awards, Africa, ammo, Brazil, film, guns, Keira Rathbone, leprosy, obsolete technology, weapons trafficking
Well, after having a good evening, watching a couple of Italian films last night, Life is Beautiful and Miracle on Madonna Street, I have a few links for you this morning.
The New York Post has an article about the battles being fought in Africa: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars to Iran
The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection.
Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150.
For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation.
When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran.
Read the rest at the link, it is a long article.
In other news, this time out of Brazil: Fast New Test Could Find Leprosy Before Damage Is Lasting
A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore.
American researchers developed the test, and Brazil’s drug-regulatory agency registered it last month. A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less.
“This will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages,” said Dr. William Levis, who has treated leprosy patients at a Bellevue Hospital outpatient clinic for 30 years.
Even more important, he said, it is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear. And the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, related to the one that causes tuberculosis, but reproducing so slowly that symptoms often take seven years to appear.
This new test requires just a drop of blood and the results are given after only ten minutes.
The disease has historically been hard to diagnose, despite the popular, but inaccurate, image of fingers and toes dropping off victims. As the bacteria kill nerves, muscles atrophy and those digits curl into claws. After disuse and repeated injuries, the body reacts protectively by absorbing the bone calcium in the bones, shrinking the digits.
For centuries, some observant doctors have noticed early signs: the numb skin patches, missing eyebrows, drooping earlobes, bulging neck nerves, the flat “lion face” caused by nasal cartilage dissolving.
Since nothing could be done for them before the age of antibiotics, victims lost the use of their hands and had to beg. Some also went blind as the blinking muscles degenerated and their eyes dried out. In the Middle Ages, some towns banned lepers, while others required them to ring bells to warn of their approach. Religious charities created “leper colonies.”
And they still exist, even in the United States. A few elderly residents have chosen to stay on in Carville, La., and Kalaupapa, Hawaii, despite having been cured. Several thousand live at one in northeast Brazil, said John S. Spencer, a leprosy researcher at Colorado State University who has worked there. “People say things like ‘People outside won’t understand what’s wrong with my face,’ ” he said.
Nowadays, he said, most patients are cured before their faces are severely disfigured. Still, he said, he had read a survey in which health experts asked Brazilians whether they would rather have the human immunodeficiency virus or leprosy. Most chose H.I.V. — even though leprosy does not kill, can be cured, and does not make a victim risky to have sex with. “The stigma is that strong,” he said.
Wow. Dr Lewis says he hopes the Brazilian test becomes available in the US so he can test the families of his patients. It takes many antibiotics given over 6 months to a year to cure the disease…these new test provide doctors with more time to could help diagnosis leprosy before permanent nerve damage is done.
I guess my PAD is getting the best of me, I just don’t have the energy to give you more than these…and instead of posting links to more of the same news, give a look at some of the artsy reads below.
With the Academy Awards later tonight, I have two links about film and films.
Two films on Israeli occupation in Oscar race
Hollywood is getting ready to hand out the industry’s most prestigious film awards: the Oscars.
Among the contenders for best documentary is a film directed by an Israeli, and another by a Palestinian.
Both the Israeli The Gatekeepers and Palestinian 5 Broken Cameras tell the same story, but from two quite different perspectives.
Video at the link, and…
For more of Al Jazeera’s extended interviews with Dror Moreh, the director of The Gatekeepers, and Emad Burnat, director of 5 Broken Cameras, click here. Q&A: Dror Moreh and Emad Burnat
Film is finished – this could be its last Oscars
Digital is taking over Hollywood, but celluloid’s fans intend to fight on
They are some of the most powerful people in one of the most powerful entertainment industries in the world. And when Hollywood’s grandest gather at tonight’s Oscars there will be no end of smiles and handshakes. But they are also fans, and like all fans, they are given to apparently arcane squabbles. The latest is whether films should be shot on, well, film.
Some of the most successful directors, such as James Cameron and George Lucas, are so obsessed with having the best special effects that they have spent millions embracing computer-generated imagery and abandoned 35mm film. Others, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are wedded to traditional celluloid, which is becoming the film equivalent of the vinyl record.
Epics such as Les Misérables and Lincoln – both shot on 35mm – and digital creations such as Life of Pi have all made millions at the box office. While film buffs may talk about the “feel” of film, with all its subtleties, the reality is that pixilated perfection is winning – the whirring of 35mm film projectors silenced by the hum of digital machines.
Just take a look at the films nominated for best picture:
Although many love a sharp, digital picture with high definition, others prefer something a bit less “real”. The split among directors is highlighted in the nominations for Best Picture. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were shot on film. While Argo, Amour, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty were shot on digital. As was The Hobbit nominated in three technical Oscar categories.
David O Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, said: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m superstitious, maybe I’m romantic – I love film and it has a magic quality, it has a warmth. I may use digital cameras in a pinch because they are small and fast but I like film for its humaneness.” He is one of a number of directors determined to continue shooting on 35mm. Another is Nolan, who made the Dark Knight trilogy: “I am now constantly asked to justify why I want to shoot a film on film,” he said. Nolan likens digital to an “amazing” cookie until you realise “this is some horrible chemical crap that’s giving you this bad illusion that fools you at first.”
You can read more about what actors, cinematographers and directors think about digital vs film at the link up top. I tend to agree with the folks who love film…and think that digital sucks.
Another archaic form of technology that gets lost in this day in age is the typewriter. Take this woman’s use of the typewriter:
Keira Rathbone’s Incredible Typewriter Art
As romantic as the idea of working on a typewriter now seems, in reality they’re rather clunky and temperamental things. Writing with one would probably take us an age – and if we made a mistake? Well, forget it.
So imagine trying to draw with one.
London based artist Keira Rathbone, originally from Dorset, does exactly that; clustering together marks made by letters, numbers and symbols, to make brilliant, one-off images.
Keira Rathbone Makes Art At The Stroke Of A Key (PHOTOS)
The English artist clusters letters, numbers and symbols from a typewriter keyboard to composite images; from portraits of friends and celebrities to landscapes and still life. A closer look at what looks like a sketch of Wimborne Minster, a church in East Dorset, England, reveals swirls of ampersands and the ticks of quotations marks.
Watch the video below to see the artist at work, and click through the slideshow to see examples of her typewriter art. Visit keirarathbone.com for more examples of her work.
Be sure to take a look at the pictures, Rathone’s art is impressive…
Another obsolete form of technology is shown below…Keypunch Orchestra: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive
June 1937. “Baltimore, Maryland. For every Social Security account number issued an ‘employee master card’ is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank form SS-5, is transferred to this master card in the form of upended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows records office workers punching master cards on key punch machines.” Whew. Longest caption ever? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
That is all I have for you this morning. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, see ya later on tonight…should be quite a show.
So what are you all reading and blogging about today?
Posted: January 31, 2013 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, John McCain, Republican politics | Tags: Hagel Hearings
I’ve been watching the Senate Committee that’s been grilling Hagel as party of his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense. It’s difficult to spell out all the agendas going on here. It seems to be a combination of revenge, neocon fantasy memes, and pro-Israel jingoism. In short, it’s more hyped-up melodrama than substance. It also has convinced me that it’s time for Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain to retire. So, I’m going to try to link to some of the more bizarre hyperventilating by the revenge and war-thirsty set of Senators. Much of it is coming from the same folks that drug us into the Iraq mistake. It appears that some of the criticism is based in the same kinds of hyped up Islamophobia and blood thirst that characterize the Cheney crowd. Here’s an example of neocon drivel.
The latest example: neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman writing today in the Washington Times that “the Iranian rulers love Chuck Hagel.” Timmerman also writes that he is “Tehran’s best friend in Washington.” That line is part and parcel of the larger smear campaign waged ever since Hagel’s name was floated. Neoconservatives like Bill Kristol have accused Hagel of being “pro-appeasement of Iran.”
Timmerman’s column offers no evidence for his assertions, as is to be expected. But it’s a useful window into how the right is trying to torpedo Hagel’s nomination.
The reason why Hagel is being smeared as an “appeaser” of Iran is because he has voiced mild skepticism over how U.S. policy towards the country has been conducted. In the past, he has been skeptical of unilateral U.S. sanctions on the country and has cautioned against hastily rushing into a military attack. But he has also backtracked on many of his heterodox positions. The backtracking is the price Hagel had to pay to get nominated in the face of vociferous opposition from neoconservatives like Timmerman.
The personal revenge scenario seems to revolve around John McCain who might as well be singing “He was my man, but he done me wrong” as he hammered away Hagel today. He wants some one, any one, to vindicate him and his continual war drum beat for Iraq. Evidently, the war came between the two BFFs. (You can also view Hagel’s opening pitch at this WAPO/Cizilla link.)
The most obvious break in the McCain-Hagel relationship came in the early 2000s over the war in Iraq. While Hagel, like McCain, voted for the use of force resolution against Iraq, he was always wary of America going it alone in the conflict and, as time wore on, became a more and more outspoken critic of the war.
McCain, on the other hand, remained a stalwart defender of the necessity of the war and went on later in the decade to become the face of the surge strategy to put more troops in the country. Hagel opposed that strategy and panned it repeatedly.
“Quite simply, the split began over the length and cost of the Iraq war and Hagel’s decision to not support the surge, which John took as a personal insult,” said one McCain ally granted anonymity to speak candidly about the relationship. “It’s very sad.”
While a disagreement over the right course of action in Iraq might have been the biggest factor in the dissolution of the friendship, politics also played a role in the split.
While Hagel was intimately involved in McCain’s 2000 presidential bid — he served as national co-chairman and was in New Hampshire the night the Arizona Senator won the Granite State presidential primary — by the time McCain ran for president again in 2008 Hagel was much less on board.
Not only did he not endorse McCain, but Hagel also didn’t entirely dismiss the idea of serving as then Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee. (Hagel’s wife endorsed Obama in the 2008 race.)
Then, in 2012, Hagel endorsed the candidacy of former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) in the Cornhusker State’s open seat Senate race, a move that badly rankled McCain, who had endorsed Kerrey’s opponent — Republican Deb Fischer — and campaigned with her the day after Hagel made his endorsement of Kerrey public.
Adding to their policy and political disagreements, there was (and is) the fact that McCain and Hagel are similar enough in terms of their personalities — hard charging, irascible, certain that their deeply-held beliefs are correct — that they were always destined to be either best friends or the exact opposite. Put simply: The very personality traits that made McCain and Hagel fast friends in the mid 1990s is what has driven them apart in the last few years.
Miss Lindsey has gotten the vapors over the nomination of Senator Hagel and appears to be worried he’s anti-Semitic. He’s probably more worried about an evangelical/tea party candidate primarying him if he doesn’t support the so-called “holy land” and rebuilding of the temple that’s going to bring on the end times. He’s also probably playing the role of McCain henchmen too. I have no idea why any one in a cabinet position has to take a loyalty oath to a foreign country given they’ll be enforcing the president’s policies anyway, but there it is. He’s not loyal enough to Israel’s right to do anything it wants to without question.
Miss Lindsey even said he got “chills up his spine”. Again, Lindsey appears to want some kind of loyalty pledge to an ally but, again, a foreign country.
The weirdest moment with Miss Lindsey came when he asked Hagel to name names. This rather took me back to the days of black-listing but the right wing appears to find it a big win for the one with the chilled spine. He also wanted Hagel to name the particular lobby and made sure to list the right-wing christian groups that are just dying for Israel to build that temple so the big war can get started.
Sen. Lindsey Graham grilled Hagel over a 2006 interview in which he said that the “pro-Israel lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Congress.
“Name one person here who’s been intimidated by the Jewish lobby,” Graham demanded. “Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing due to pressure by the Israeli or Jewish lobby.”
“I don’t know,” Hagel replied. “I didn’t have a specific person in mind.”
“So you agree that it was a dumb thing to say?”
“Yes,” Hagel admitted. “I’ve already said that.”
Right after characterizing this exchange as Lady Lindsey ‘crushing’ Hagel, we get this statement written by the article’s author Grace Wyler. It seemed to me that Wyler just proved Hagel’s point.
Pro-Israel groups and Republican defense hawks have leveled harsh criticism against Hagel in recent week. In addition to the “Israel lobby” comment, their grievances include Hagel’s past opposition to multilateral sanctions on Iran and his support for open negotiations with Hamas.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why we just can’t be on the side of peace and human rights instead of blindly supporting any country. But then, I don’t believe in any weird end times story that doesn’t come from scientific evidence and I don’t want to see perpetual war and human rights violations anywhere in the world. I frankly don’t care who the perpetrator is, it’s freaking wrong. I don’t know about you but I hold people I call my friends to higher standards than people I wouldn’t even want to talk to on the street. Besides, the current Israeli government is a put-together coalition of a lot of neocon and right wing groups that doesn’t appear to really represent that many Israeli citizens who would like to see more diplomacy and negotiations.
John Avalon has an interesting post at CNN called “A reality check for Chuck Hagel bashers”. It’s worth a read.
But let’s be honest: Hagel’s cardinal sin among neo-conservatives was his outspoken opposition to Bush-era foreign policy in Iraq and his decision to break Republican ranks and not support the 2007 Iraq surge.
Good people can disagree on policy and personnel; my wife and I disagree on the Hagel nomination. A confirmation hearing can usefully clear up any sincere questions. But a look at the facts, armed with a sense of perspective, suggests that it might be Hagel’s most vociferous critics who are outside the historic mainstream, not Hagel himself.
Hagel’s unvarnished independence is well-known in Washington, but his opposition to the quagmire of the Iraq war is not idiosyncratic. It is philosophically consistent with being a small government conservative and a Vietnam veteran, suspicious of calls to war by people who won’t have to serve in the combat zone.
He still carries shrapnel in his chest from being wounded in Vietnam. After his war service, he said, “I made myself a promise that if I ever got out of that place and was ever in a position to do something about war — so horrible, so filled with suffering — I would do whatever I could to stop it. I have never forgotten that promise.”
This doesn’t mean Hagel is some kind of pacifist. But as the first enlisted man to serve in combat to be nominated for secretary of defense, he does have a grunt’s-eye view of war and a commitment to making it a last resort, consistent with our national interest — hence his reasonable regrets about the invasion of Iraq and his caution about charging into a war with Iran.
Again, the beltway believes that this all started back in the Bush days. One interesting right wing freak out mentioned by Avalon particularly disturbed me.
And yet, the accusation that Hagel is out of the mainstream on Iran and Israel percolates because it is in the talking points. An early broadside came from The Weekly Standard, which published an anonymous e-mail, allegedly from a Senate aide, reading, “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.”This is a serious accusation and a transparent attempt to intimidate. Anti-Semitism is a rightfully toxic charge. Israel is America’s closest ally in the world, along with the UK. But in a recent interview with his hometown paper in Lincoln, Nebraska, Hagel said that his record demonstrates “unequivocal, total support for Israel.”
In his memoir, Hagel devotes an entire chapter to “The Holy Land: Israel and The Arabs,” full of calls for negotiated peace with statements like this: “There is one important given that is not negotiable: A comprehensive solution should not include any compromise regarding Israel’s Jewish identity, which must be assured. The Israeli people must be free to live in peace and security.”
For what it’s worth, five former ambassadors to Israel have endorsed Hagel’s nomination, and former Israeli Consul Gen. Alon Pinkas has clarified that Hagel is “not anti-Israel.”
This is another conversation that bothers me. I have no idea what you can’t be critical of Israeli policies without being labelled anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. I think the best thing for Israel would be lasting peace in the middle east. I don’t think everything they do works to that end. This includes putting a huge prison-like wall around an entire populace, stopping humanitarian aid, and breaking agreements by allowing settlements in places that settlements should not be. I think their current government is what we’d see if Dick Cheney were ever to creep into the presidency frankly. Just because I think the Bush/Cheney years were basically indefensible does not mean I hate my country or myself as an American.
So, in some ways, this hearing is simply a replay of NeoCon trying to justify their actions that every one pretty much sees as misguided now with the exception of the right wing. It’s another example of how the Republican party is not going to change and how many Democrats enable their silliness on so many issues. Again, this display was a great argument for the people in Arizona and South Carolina to retire their senators and spare the rest of us this kind of reverse morality play.
Posted: January 23, 2013 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, France, Great Britain, Iran, Israel, morning reads, Russia, Syria | Tags: gas leak, New Mexico shooting, stink cloud, Texas Lone Star College
This post will focus on world news reads, and updates on two US shootings making headlines. The latest news out of Texas:
4 Hospitalized in Shooting at Lone Star College
A dispute between two men at a community college in the wooded northern outskirts of Houston led to a shooting on Tuesday that left four people hospitalized and touched off fears that the campus was the site of another mass shooting.
Instead, the authorities said, the shooting, at Lone Star College’s North Harris campus, centered on an argument between two men, at least one of whom may have been a student or former student. Three people appeared to have been wounded by gunfire, including a maintenance worker who was shot in the leg. A fourth person, who was not shot, was taken to a hospital with medical problems.
Looks like one man was mad at another and he decided to let his gun do the talking.
This was not the only shooting in the news however, remember the young teen in New Mexico? Turns out he was home-schooled and according to some news reports loved to play video games.
Homeschooled Teen Who Killed Family With AR-15 Also Plotted Walmart Mass Shooting
New Mexico authorities announced on Tuesday that a 15-year-old boy who killed his family with several weapons including an AR-15 military-style assault rifle enjoyed playing “violent” video games and had planned to go to a local Walmart to shoot random people.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston told reporters at a press conference that Nehemiah Griego eventually admitted to the murders of his mother, father and three siblings after initially saying that he had come home to find them dead, according to KRQE.
Houston said that Griego had waited for his mother to fall asleep before gaining access to her unlocked bedroom closet to obtain an AR-15, a .22 rifle and two 12-gauge shotguns. Some of the weapons had been purchased by the father through private sales, the investigation found.
“The teen told authorities after killing his family he reloaded his weapons so that he could ‘drive to populated area to murder more people,’” KRQE reported. “He expressed a desire to shoot people at random and eventually be killed while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement.”
But the teen instead decided to spend time with his 12-year-old girlfriend before driving to Calvary Church, where his father had once been a pastor. A church security guard eventually called police, who discovered the bodies at the home.
A couple more links below:
New Mexico teen charged in family killings planned more carnage: police | Reuters
The murders have convulsed the faith community of Albuquerque, where Greg Griego, the teen’s father and a former gang member, worked as a pastor and volunteered with inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
A Statement of Probable Cause described Griego’s changing stories to police as well as the gory details of the quintuple homicide that took place on Saturday inside the family’s Albuquerque home.
The teen told police he shot his mother, the first victim in his rampage, because he was “frustrated” with her, Houston said.
After shooting his brother and two sisters, Griego, who police said often played violent video games, then waited five hours for his father to return from work and ambushed him with an AR-15 assault rifle – the same type of weapon used in the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shootings.
“It’s the first time I’ve been to a crime scene with so much destruction in one home,” Houston said, describing the scene at the family home as “horrific.”
Police said that after the killings, Griego sent his 12-year-old girlfriend a picture of his mother’s body and the two then spent the day together, possibly planning to kill her parents.
The dead have been identified as 51-year-old Greg Griego, his 40-year-old wife Sarah Griego, and three of their children: a 9-year-old boy and two girls, ages five and two.
Griego showing no remorse | KOB.com
Nehemiah Griego has been unemotional and stern throughout questioning, Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said Tuesday, adding he also has not shown any signs of remorse after allegedly committing the most heinous crimes against his family.
“This is beyond any human reasoning or understanding,” Houston said.
The only motive, Griego told investigators, was that he was mad at his mother.
Just a few days after this shooting in New Mexico, and we know more than we do about Adam Lanza. It is frustrating…
Anyway, in world news….Over in Israel, Netanyahu has won re-election.
Netanyahu turns to Iran after narrow election win
Hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in Israel’s parliamentary election, shrugging off surprise losses to centre-left challengers and vowing on Wednesday to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
However, Tuesday’s vote, which also disappointed religiously inspired hardliners, may deflect the premier’s focus on confronting Tehran and resisting Palestinian demands as Israel’s secular, middle-class demanded new attention to domestic issues.
That, in turn, might draw Netanyahu toward a less fractious relationship with his key ally, U.S. President Barack Obama, who himself embarked on a new term this week with great ambitions.
North Korea is in the news too: After UN Acts, NKorea Vows ‘Nuclear Deterrence’
North Korea swiftly lashed out against the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of its December launch of a long-range rocket, saying Wednesday that it will strengthen its military defenses — including its nuclear weaponry — in response.
The defiant statement from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry was issued hours after the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of a ban against nuclear and missile activity. The resolution, which required approval from Pyongyang’s ally China, also added to sanctions against the North.
The Foreign Ministry called the launch a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space rather than a test of long-range missile technology. It said North Korea “should counter the U.S. hostile policy with strength, not with words.”
Words? Strength? Well, as I was looking for world news links for this post, I found this quite interesting: Evacuation of Russians from Syria reflects Moscow’s doubts about Assad’s grip on power
The Kremlin’s evacuation of Russians from Syria on Tuesday marks a turning point in its view of the civil war, representing increasing doubts about Bashar Assad’s hold on power and a sober understanding that it has to start rescue efforts before it becomes too late.
The operation has been relatively small-scale, involving under 100 people, mostly women and children — but it marks the beginning of what could soon turn into a risky and challenging operation. Analysts warn that rescuing tens of thousands of Russians from the war-stricken country could quickly become daunting as the opposition makes new advances in the battle against the Syrian president.
“It’s a sign of distrust in Assad, who seems unlikely to hold on to power,” said Alexei Malashenko, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow office.
Russia said on Tuesday it had started evacuating scores of citizens who wanted to leave Syria but denied the move was the start of a mass exodus.
Two senior diplomats played down the significance of decision, announced on Monday, to send aircraft to bring Russians home almost two years after the start of the revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
“We are not talking about a full evacuation … It is not planned that everyone will leave,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said, according to state-run news agency Itar-Tass.
“We are helping those who want to leave,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on the sidelines of a meeting in Moscow between Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
Another powerful man, tyrant if you will, has been missing lately. I am talking about Hugo Chavez of course, this op/ed from the New York Times: Chávez, the Missing President
ON Jan. 10, while Hugo Chávez lay in a hospital bed in Havana, he was symbolically sworn in as Venezuela’s new president in a ceremony here. The crowd that attended his virtual inauguration was moved to tears by a recording of Mr. Chávez’s singing the national anthem. The country is experiencing the very odd circumstance of being both with and without its leader; he is not here, but his voice endures.
From the intensive care unit, the president “continues to perform his duties”; he gives orders and sends kisses to children. This is what his vice president says. According to the Supreme Court, the Congress cannot consider him absent, for no matter how ill he is, only Mr. Chávez himself has the authority to declare himself absent. The opposition is demanding a “fe de vida” — proof that he is still alive, as if he were a kidnapping victim. Day after day, on the street, on Twitter, our president dies and comes back to life. But this is not a magical realist novel.
Read the rest at the link.
A French soldier, second from left, speaks with Malian soldiers near Diabaly. The French military drove militants out of that key central town, as well as Douentza, on Monday. (Arnaud Roine, French Army Communications Audiovisual / January 23, 2013)
Malians say the military’s inability to halt an Islamist advance toward the capital without the aid of France has them wondering what happens when the French leave.
A cloud of harmless gas smelling of sweat and rotten eggs leaked from a chemicals factory in northwest France
and drifted across the English Channel as far as London on Tuesday.The leak occurred on Monday morning at a Lubrizol France plant near Rouen, 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Paris, and winds blew the invisible gas cloud south over northern France on Monday night and then up into England on Tuesday.The fire brigade in the county of Kent, southeast of London, warned residents to keep their doors and windows closed due to the gas, which may make some people feel nauseous, and police said they had reports of an acrid smell in the capital.
Lubrizol France, which makes additives for industrial lubricants and paint, said the gas was mercaptan, also known as methanethiol, a colourless additive used in natural gas because its sulphurous smell enables gas leaks to be detected.
Harmless? I don’t know, but it looks as if France farted in England’s general direction. Check out this lovely description from the New York Times: Smell of Gas Causes Alarm in Northern France
It wafted over northern France late in the night and reached southern England by morning on Tuesday, a noisome cloud that roused inhabitants from their sleep with its nauseating stench. There were thousands of frantic calls to emergency services, from Normandy to Paris, with residents describing the smell of household gas or rotten eggs, but the authorities moved quickly to calm fears.
The cloud, officials said, was one of a group of substances called mercaptans, foul-smelling but largelyharmless chemicals — at low doses, at any rate. It had escaped from a chemical plant near the northern city of Rouen.
“Given the absence of danger,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, “the inhabitants of the affected regions are invited to not call emergency services.” In a separate joint statement, the ministers of the interior and ecology noted that the chemical is dangerous only at concentrations 20,000 times that at which the nose detects it.
Often described as smelling of rotten cabbage, mercaptans are used as a marker for household gas, which is odorless, so that leaks do not go undetected. They are present in feces and some cheeses, and can cause headaches and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those symptoms were described by a number of people in France on Tuesday.
Rotten eggs, rotten cabbage, feces and cheese…hmmmm, reminds me of this scene from Goldmember:
Fat Bastard: I’ve been tryin’ to go legit.
Austin Powers: Of course…
Fat Bastard: But when you’re an overweight child, in a society that demands perfection, your sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair will always be tragically skewed…
Austin Powers: Did you just soil yourself?
Fat Bastard: Maybe.
Fat Bastard: It did sound a little wet, there didn’t it? Right at the end! Oooh! Heh heh heh. Let’s have a smell, all right? Oh, everyone likes their own brand, don’t they? Oh, this is magic! Hmmm, wafting, wafting. Ok, analysis. Ooh, smells like carrots in throw-up! Oh that could gag a maggot! It smells like hot sick ass in a dead carcass! Even stink would say that stinks! You know when you go into an apartment building and you smell the other people’s cooking on each floor and you go “What are they cookin’?” That, plus crap!
That, plus crap sounds about right!
What are you reading this morning?
Posted: November 28, 2012 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Iran | Tags: middle east, Nuclear Bombs, nuclear energy
AP has a big, exclusive story based on a graph of a simulation leaked by they’re-not-saying-who from they’re-not-saying-where. This is Proof the Iranians are working on a big bad nuke.
Glenn Greenwald seems to be getting exasperated at the silliness of such setups:
even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane.
Well, yes, there is that.
But there’s one even bigger piece of evidence suggesting that the Iranians aren’t doing much, and for some reason that’s not being mentioned. They have a border with a huge and powerful country. Russia has zero reason to want powerful Islamic fundamentalists right on its southern border who might encourage friction in other Central Asian majority-Islamic countries.
If the Iranians were really that close to useful nukes, you can bet your Sunday bonnet the Russians would be making noise about it and/or doing something about it.
Crossposted from Acid Test
Posted: October 28, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Environment, Foreign Affairs, George W. Bush, Great Britain, History, Iran, Middle East, misogyny, Mitt Romney, morning reads, nature, U.S. Economy, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bretton Woods Meeting, Elizabeth Taylor, Hurricane Sandy, manipulation, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, political ads, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Richard Burton Diary
For those of you in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Hurricane Sandy is getting closer. The latest updates from NOAA here and for a few links on the preparations, check these out:
Take Hurricane Sandy seriously, East Coast residents warned
East Coast residents prepared Saturday for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, which forecasters expect to make landfall as soon as Monday night and then merge with a sprawling winter storm to create weather havoc for tens of millions of people across one-third of the nation.
From Maine to the Carolinas, federal and state officials urged residents and businesses to prepare for the worst — drenching rain, flooding, high winds, highs seas, snow and widespread power outages. Federal officials said the impact would extend into the Ohio Valley.
Even though Sandy was still at least two days away, residents along the northeastern Atlantic Coast, mindful of possible transit shutdowns and bombarded by storm warnings, kicked into preparation mode.
Hurricane Sandy to reach Massachusetts late Sunday night
As Hurricane Sandy loomed closer to the northeast coast Saturday afternoon, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency in preparation for power outages, coastal flooding, and beach erosion that could rock the New England region.
The Bay State will begin feeling the hurricane’s effects Sunday evening, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kim Buttrick, but not its full force until Monday.
Winds will start blowing 35 to 45 miles per hour Monday in Massachusetts, with gusts up to 55 mph in the morning that will accelerate in the afternoon reaching a peak of 65 miles per hour. Higher-than-average winds and precipitation will continue until Tuesday morning, Buttrick said.
Threat of Hurricane Sandy grows as it targets East Coast
Rain accumulations of up to 12 inches and heavy snowfall inland are considered likely in some areas. As it merges with an Arctic jet stream, forecasters said Sandy has all the ingredients to transform into a “super storm” unlike anything seen over the eastern United States in decades.
On its current projected track, Sandy could make U.S. landfall on Monday night or Tuesday morning anywhere between Maryland and southern New England, forecasters said. Some computer models showed a likely landfall between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area.
For a bit of humor on this Frankenstorm, The 12 Worst Ways New Yorkers Prepared For The Last Hurricane. (Some may find it offensive, but I always thought the novel Frankenstein was really horrifying.)
Okay, I’ve got a few more links for you this morning. There was so much going on this past week, with the whole “god’s gift” crap coming out of the mouths of the GOP, you may have missed these stories.
This first link is something I hope Dakinikat can comment on:
Transcript of ’44 Bretton Woods Meeting Found at Treasury
A Treasury economist rummaging in the department’s library has stumbled on a historical treasure hiding in plain sight: a transcript of the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 that cast the foundations of the modern international monetary system.
The Center for Financial Stability has included links to the transcripts on its web site.
International Monetary Fund, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
John Maynard Keynes addressed the Bretton Woods conference, where the International Monetary Fund was created.
Historians had never known that a transcript existed for the event held in the heat of World War II, when delegates from 44 allied nations fighting Hitler gathered in the mountains of New Hampshire to create the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But there were three copies in archives and libraries around Washington that had never been made public, until now.
“It’s as if someone handed us Madison’s notes on the debate over the Constitution,” said Eric Rauchway, a historian the University of California, Davis.
Wow, that is huge…
This past week, we also saw Iran being hyped up again by the GOP: GOP Rep Says Strike On Iran’s Nuclear Facilities Would Not Be An Act Of War
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN last night that neither he, nor the Iranians, would consider an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities an act of war.
Rogers said that he believed there are options “short of war” that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and, strangely, CNN host Erin Burnett wondered if bombing suspected nuclear weapons facilities would be an option that is “short of war.” While Rogers at first appeared taken aback by Burnett’s odd question, he then went a bit further, saying definitively that such an attack would indeed be “short of war” and the Iranians would see it that way too:
ROGERS: Well, in very targeted strikes, we use very targeted strikes against al Qaeda. And so if it is a very targeted strike, many would argue that that’s short of war. And if it only seeks to go after their nuclear program, that is — we’re not talking about invasions or naval engagements or troops on the ground, none of that. And this has been used by other — President Clinton used this tactic.
But there’s also other things under that. I’m not saying that’s — that is the right answer. That is an option that I believe is short of war if it is very selective, very targeted, only to the nuclear program. And we do know, those — that the Iranians believe that there is a whole panoply of options — war and then these targeted strikes they don’t see as — wouldn’t see as an act of war.
Rogers made these statements and then I noticed this article a day later…from The Guardian: Britain rejects US request to use UK bases in nuclear standoff with Iran
US diplomats are said to have also lobbied for permission to use US bases on British territory such as Diego Garcia. Photograph: AFP
Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.
The Guardian has been told that US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.
The US approaches are part of contingency planning over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, but British ministers have so far reacted coolly. They have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
This makes clear that Iran, which has consistently denied it has plans to develop a nuclear weapon, does not currently represent “a clear and present threat”. Providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law, it states.
“The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran,” said a senior Whitehall source. “It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans.”
The US has not officially asked for assistance from Britain, but feelers are being put out there. Which is scary enough…
Report: British attorney general thinks strike on Iran could be illegal
…the apparently staunch U.K. opposition to working with the U.S. on this is striking, particularly after British Prime Minister Tony Blair so closely joined U.S. President George W. Bush in planning and executing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2003 Iraq invasion became a source of considerable political backlash in the U.K., including a two-year official investigation that culminated in Blair being summoned to a bruising public inquiry.
Based on this story, it appears that the U.K. wants little or nothing to do with even U.S. planning for a potential strike on Iran, much less the attack itself. “I think the U.S. has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance,” an anonymous British source told the Guardian, speculating that this meant Washington might not even inform London of an attack until after it had happened. “In some respects, the U.K. government would prefer it that way.”
I realize one probably does not have anything to do with the other, but it seemed like a strange coincidence. And since I am currently reading 500 Days, these stories made me think of the way the world was manipulated by Bush and Cheney. (Especially Cheney.)
This article from Alternet also talks about manipulation, as far as political ads are concerned. How Corporations Know Who You Will Likely Vote For
Chinese officials have launched a probe after microbloggers said they had uncovered another allegedly corrupt leader who owns millions of dollars worth of property, state press said on Thursday.
If you’re a registered voter and surf the web, one of the sites you visit has almost certainly placed a tiny piece of data on your computer flagging your political preferences. That piece of data, called a cookie, marks you as a Democrat or Republican, when you last voted, and what contributions you’ve made. It also can include factors like your estimated income, what you do for a living, and what you’ve bought at the local mall.
Across the country, companies are using cookies to tailor the political ads you see online. One of the firms is CampaignGrid, which boasted in a recent slideshow, “Internet Users are No Longer Anonymous.” The slideshow includes an image of the famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Next to it, CampaignGrid lists what it can now know about an Internet user: “Lives in Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District, 19002 zip code, Registered primary voting Republican, High net worth household, Age 50-54, Teenagers in the home, Technology professional, Interested in politics, Shopping for a car, Planning a vacation in Puerto Rico.”
Freaky stuff…Oh and by the way, Romney lands key endorsement in crucial swing state – Iowa . Yup, after all that fuss over Obama’s interview being “off the record” and they endorse Romney.
Okay, enough with that…check out these two articles about those golden years of Hollywood. Iconic Scarlett O’Hara dresses restored, displayed
It turns out there will be another day for Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress. Many of them.
The iconic dress and Scarlett’s burgundy ball gown from the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” have been saved from deterioration by a $30,000 conservation effort by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
The dresses worn by actress Vivien Leigh are now on display for the first time in nearly 30 years at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum as part of a Hollywood costume exhibit.
Ransom Center officials announced the project in 2010, noting the dresses were in danger of falling apart from age.
And this one, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor’s Romance As Revealed In His Diaries, which has an excerpt of the newly published diary.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married twice. Their first marriage lasted for ten years (1964-74), and their second marriage happened very suddenly, 16 months after their divorce, during a visit to Botswana in 1975. This excerpt from The Richard Burton Diaries (Yale University Press, $35) reveals what occurred.
From the little they have in the excerpt, Burton’s alcohol use was problematic…to say the least.
Almost done, just a couple more articles…this time on Hermit Crabs. My kids have kept these little crabs before and I have seen them fight to get into another crabs shell. Hermit crabs socialize to evict their neighbors
Social animals usually congregate for protection or mating or to capture bigger prey, but a University of California, Berkeley, biologist has found that the terrestrial hermit crab has a more self-serving social agenda: to kick another crab out of its shell and move into a larger home.
The terrestrial hermit crab Coenobita compressus lives inside a discarded snail shell and forages for plants and carrion along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Peru. Photos by Mark Laidre, UC Berkeley.
All hermit crabs appropriate abandoned snail shells for their homes, but the dozen or so species of land-based hermit crabs – popular terrarium pets – are the only ones that hollow out and remodel their shells, sometimes doubling the internal volume. This provides more room to grow, more room for eggs – sometimes a thousand more eggs – and a lighter home to lug around as they forage.
But empty snail shells are rare on land, so the best hope of moving to a new home is to kick others out of their remodeled shells, said Mark Laidre, a UC Berkeley Miller Post-Doctoral Fellow who reported this unusual behavior in this month’s issue of the journal Current Biology.
So the crabs dance in a conga line….
“The one that gets yanked out of its shell is often left with the smallest shell, which it can’t really protect itself with,” said Laidre, who is in the Department of Integrative Biology. “Then it’s liable to be eaten by anything. For hermit crabs, it’s really their sociality that drives predation.”
A free-for-all takes place whenever three or more hermit crabs congregate, with all crabs intent on displacing someone else to get a larger shell.
Laidre says the crabs’ unusual behavior is a rare example of how evolving to take advantage of a specialized niche – in this case, land versus ocean – led to an unexpected byproduct: socialization in a typically solitary animal.
You can find a video of crabs fighting here, it is not in the conga line formation…but it is funny to see the crab being pulled out of the shell by another crab. It looks animated.
Let’s end this with a funny video, from the early 90′s, featuring a conga line:
“Heh!” What are you all up to this Sunday, share some links and thoughts below…and those of you in Sandy’s way, take care of yourselves.