I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of bad news. I’ve completely stopped watching TV and listening to radio news, because I just can’t take any more details of wars, plane crashes, dead children. If it weren’t for writing these morning posts, I wouldn’t have a clue what’s happening. I get all my news from Google, Twitter, and various blogs, including Sky Dancing. So I’m going to quickly link to the major stories topping Google this morning, and then I’ll post some interesting longer reads that I came across around the ‘net.
There’s a 12-hour cease fire in Gaza right now. BBC News has extensive coverage, Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900.
Residents in Gaza are using a 12-hour humanitarian truce to return to their homes, gather essential supplies and search for those trapped in the rubble.
At least 85 bodies have been pulled from the rubble during the truce, a Palestinian health official says.
That raises the Palestinian death toll to 985 since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on 8 July, the spokesman said. Thirty-nine Israelis have died.
International talks on a longer truce have resumed in Paris.
Israel said it would continue to “locate and neutralise” Hamas tunnels during the pause, which began at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
So far 31 tunnels have been discovered, with about half destroyed, Israeli’s military says.
Lots of details and photos at the BBC link.
From AP via The Boston Globe, Gaza Sides Agree to Lull But Truce Efforts Stall.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation ‘‘significantly.’’
Hours after the U.S.-led efforts stalled, the two sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Saturday. However, the temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the Gaza war is spilling over into the West Bank.
In a ‘‘Day of Rage,’’ Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel’s Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. In the West Bank, at least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.
The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.
An op-ed from Al Jazeera, Israel’s war of disproportionate force on Gaza, by Britain Eaken.
The recent killing of four Palestinian children by an Israeli airstrike while they played soccer on a beach in Gaza should call into question Israel’s claim that it’s waging a war of self-defense. Western journalists who saw the attack witnessed firsthand an ugly reality of life in Gaza — Palestinian civilians are too often caught in the crossfire in this tiny, densely populated and besieged coastal strip.
Early Sunday, an Israeli incursion into the Shujayea neighborhood in Gaza killed at least 60 more Palestinians. Most of the injuries being treated at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital belong to civilians suffering from shrapnel injuries and amputations. More than 100 children have been killed so far and the Palestinian death toll just surpassed 400 with more than 3000 injured.
The UN says more than 70 percent of Palestinian casualties are civilians, a marked increase from previous Israeli assaults.
The toll on civilians has raised United Nations’ concerns of the Israeli use of disproportionate force in Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. But the use of disproportionate force and the targeting of civilian infrastructure isn’t a new or surprising tactic for Israel. In fact, it’s a primary strategy according to Gabi Siboni, head of the Military and Strategic Affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. This strategy has a well-documented history in Gaza.
I have no words.
Yes, there’s still fighting in Libya, and the violence is getting so bad than the U.S. has closed and evacuated its embassy there. NPR reports: U.S. Embassy Compound In Libya Shut Down Amid Fighting.
The U.S. has closed its embassy in Libya and evacuated diplomats amid what is being described as a significant deterioration in security, with rival militant factions battling in the capital, Tripoli.
“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”
In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said: “[All] embassy personnel were relocated, including Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy during the movement.”
AP via ABC News: US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes.
The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said….
The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.” ….
“We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region,” Harf said. The evacuated staffers will continue to work on Libya issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.
Ukraine is still roiling, but it seems to have receded into the background for the moment. Here are a few headlines just to keep you current.
From the WaPo editorial board: If the West doesn’t do more for Ukraine now, it might soon be too late.
From the Are You Kidding Me? File
From the LA Times: White House aide says Republicans might impeach Obama over immigration.
Pesident Obama will propose broad-ranging executive action on immigration reform later this summer that could provoke Republicans into trying to impeach him, a senior White House official said Friday.
While details of the immigration plan are still being worked on, it will mark “an important step in the arc of the presidency” that will shape both the substance and politics of immigration policy for years, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
That move is certain to “increase the angry reaction from Republicans” who already accuse Obama of exceeding his executive authority, Pfeiffer said, highlighting recent statements by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in which she backed an impeachment move.
“I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has “opened the door to impeachment” by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority.
Is this just an effort by the White House to put the impeachment question out there so Americans can let the GOP what they think about it? The Hill reports: White House taking impeachment seriously.
Senior White House advisers are taking very seriously the possibility that Republicans in Congress will try to impeach President Obama, especially if he takes executive action to slow deportations.
Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, said Friday that the White House is taking the prospect of impeachment in the GOP-controlled House more seriously than many others in Washington, who see it as unlikely.
Pfeiffer noted that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a large following among Tea Party conservatives, has called for Obama’s impeachment and a large block of the GOP’s base favors it.
“I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying they supported impeaching the president. A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility,” he told reporters Friday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
Pfeiffer said Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to file a lawsuit against Obama over his use of executive actions increased the chance of impeachment proceedings in the future.
A little reality testing from Sean Sullivan at the WaPo: These two numbers show why impeachment talk is trouble for the GOP.
By about 2-1, Americans say they don’t think President Obama should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Friday.
But a majority of Republicans disagree.
That, in a nutshell, is why talk about impeaching the president is nothing but trouble for the GOP heading toward the November midterms.
Sixty-five percent of Americans say Obama should not be impeached, compared to just 33 percent who say he should. Very one-sided. It’s clear that impeachment is a political loser when it comes to the public as a whole.
The “public as a whole” numbers matter because with most of the consequential primaries behind us, Republican candidates in key Senate races — the battle for the Senate is the main midterm event — have to be concerned about playing to broad statewide audiences.
Some (mostly) longer reads
These aren’t all that cheery either, but they are interesting.
This one from the NYT Sunday Magazine is for Dakinikat: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?
Why do people leave their kids in hot cars? How can you forget you’ve got your kid with you? I just don’t get it, and it makes me furious! There’s a long article about these cases at NBC News, Fatal Mistake: What Everyone Should Know About Hot Car Deaths, by Alex Johnson.
This NYT op-ed isn’t a long read, but it’s a useful one: Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth, by Veronica Escobar.
Remember all that talk about how there was going to be some kind of horrible disaster in 2012? Well it turns out that something awful almost happened. From NASA Science News, Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012. If you don’t want to wade through the whole article, The Boston Globe has a shorter summary, Apparently Earth ‘Just Missed’ a Solar Superstorm in 2012.
Finally, something entertaining and not depressing, This Is What Happens When You Ask Contemporary Artists To Reimagine Maps Of The World. Check it out!
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.
Another missing plane story tops the news right now. This time it’s an Algerian that has disappeared in Mali. According to the Wall Street Journal: Air Algérie Flight Reported Missing With 116 on Board.
Air Algérie lost contact with Flight 5017 after takeoff from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, as the jetliner headed to Algiers with 116 people on board, Algeria’s state news agency and the plane’s operator said Thursday.
French Secretary of Transport Frédéric Cuvillier told reporters the plane disappeared over Northern Mali, where Islamist militants are fighting the Malian government and French forces. Numerous French nationals were probably aboard the missing plane, Mr. Cuvillier said.
Contact with the Boeing Co. BA -0.95%MD-83, carrying 110 passengers and six crew members, was lost at about 1:55 a.m. local time, 50 minutes after the jet had taken off, the Algerian government’s official news agency said in a statement. “Air Algérie launched [an] emergency plan,” the agency added. It gave no other details.
An official at the directorate of Ouagadougou Airport said there had been an incident, “but for the moment we don’t know anything more.” He refused to give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.
Was this plane shot down like Malasian Airlines Flight MH17 in Ukraine?
The flight path of the missing Algerian jet isn’t yet clear but the FAA has warned airlines to be extra vigilant when flying over Mali.
There is no indication the jet was shot down and no confirmation of a crash.
Still, amid questions by airline executives and regulators over whether MH17 should have been flying over eastern Ukraine, the Air Algérie jet’s flight path will be closely scrutinized.
The FAA has banned U.S. carriers of flying over Mali at lower altitudes. The FAA cited “insurgent activity,” including the threat of antiaircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and rockets. Apart from worries about insurgent threats in Mali, the Algerian government has been keeping a close watch on airspace on its eastern border, where violence in Libya has led to flight bans there.
The missing plane was owned by Swiftair, a Spanish charter company. NBC News reports: Air Algerie Jet Chartered by Spain’s Swiftair Vanishes in Africa.
Air Algerie Flight AH5017 vanished about 50 minutes after it left Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, according to the Algerian Press Service. The jet took off at 1:17 a.m. local time (9:17 p.m. ET on Wednesday) bound for Algiers, Algeria.In a statement, Madrid-based Swiftair confirmed it had chartered the missing McDonnell Douglas MD-83. Swiftair said 110 passengers and six crew were aboard the jet. It had been due to land in the Algerian capital at 5:10 a.m. local time (12:10 a.m. ET). The flight was missing for hours before the news was made public….Issa Saly Maiga, the head of Mali’s National Civil Aviation Agency, told Reuters that a search was under way for the missing flight. “We do not know if the plane is Malian territory,” he added. “Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned – Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain.”
Updates on Malaysian Airlines MH17
“We thought we were going to fight but instead we found dead civilians”“We thought we would have to fight baled out Ukrainian pilots but instead we found dead civilians. All those poor people with baggage that certainly wasn’t military”. We spoke to a militiaman from the Oplot (stronghold) combat unit at midday yesterday on the concrete platforms of Torez railway station. He was standing beside five rail wagons – four refrigerated and the fifth with the refrigeration unit’s diesel geneerators – containing the human remains collected among the sunflower fields in pro-Russian separatist-held Ukraine. His words are revealing because he spoke them quite naturally, without reflecting, after telling us about the international representatives’ recently completed inspection of the bodies and his unit’s orders to stand guard over the wagons. In its innocence and simplicity, the story is significant. In fact, it could provide new evidence for those who blame the pro-Russians for mistakenly launching the fatal missile under the impression that their target was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
A top rebel commander in eastern Ukraine has reportedly said that the armed separatist movement had control of a Buk missile system, which Kiev and western countries say was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane last week.
Alexander Khodakovsky, who leads the Vostok battalion – one of the main rebel formations – said the rebels may have received the Buk from Russia, in the first such admission by a senior separatist.
“That Buk I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence,” Khodakovsky told Reuters.
Russian news agencies later said people close to Khodakovsky denied he made the admissions. Khodakovsky himself told Life News, a Russian news agency with links to Moscow’s security services, that he was misquoted and had merely discussed “possible versions” with Reuters. Khodakovsky said the rebels “do not have and have never had” a Buk.
As two further Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down, apparently by missiles fired from within Russia, Khodakovsky appeared to imply that MH17 was indeed downed by a missile from the Buk, assuming the interview with Reuters is confirmed. He blamed Ukrainian authorities, however, for allowing civilian jets to fly over its airspace when the rebels had such capabilities.
Mr Borodai admitted that the rebels had received support from “the whole Russian people” in their fight against the Ukrainian government.
“Volunteers are joining us,” he told the Newsnight programme, describing himself as one of them – “a resident of the city of Moscow”.
“It just so happened that, instead of sitting in a trench with a rifle or a machine gun, I now have the post of prime minister. Well… that’s fate.”
He denied that he was a member of a Russian intelligence agency, as has often been alleged.
However, he admitted to having contact with other members of the secret services in Russia – as, he said, would anyone “who has dealings with the elite of society”.
On the treatment of the bodies,
“We wanted to collect the bodies from the very beginning,” said Mr Borodai.
“But we were under extreme pressure from the OSCE representative, who said to us: ‘I represent 57 countries. Don’t you dare touch the bodies of the dead. Under no circumstances. Or else all the 57 countries of the OSCE will do this and that to you.’”
“So we wait a day. We wait a second day. A third day. Come on! Not a single expert…. Well, to leave the bodies there any longer, in 30C heat, it’s absurd. It’s simply inhuman. It’s a scene from a horror movie.”
However, an OSCE spokesman told the BBC that the organisation had not warned the rebels against moving the bodies.
More obfuscation at the link. Thank goodness the bodies are now being returned to the Netherlands.
Do Dogs Experience Emotions?
There’s a story in The New York Times about research on dogs and emotions with a somewhat cutsie headline and introduction, Inside Man’s Best Friend, Study Says, May Lurk a Green-Eyed Monster. Do dogs experience jealousy?
The answer, according to Christine Harris, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, is that if you are petting another dog, Roscoe is going to show something that Dr. Harris thinks is a form of jealousy, even if not as complex and twisted as the adult human form.
Other scientists agree there is something going on, but not all are convinced it is jealousy. And Roscoe and the rest of his tribe were, without exception, unavailable for comment.
Dr. Harris had been studying human jealousy for years when she took this question on, inspired partly by the antics of her parents’ Border collies. When she petted them, “one would take his head and knock the other’s head away,” she said. It certainly looked like jealousy.
But having studied humans, she was aware of different schools of thought about jealousy. Some scientists argue that jealousy requires complex thinking about self and others, which seems beyond dogs’ abilities. Others think that although our descriptions of jealousy are complex, the emotion itself may not be that complex.
Read more, including reactions from other scientists at the NYT.
Another researcher, Greg Berns of Emory University, has been examining the question of how dogs think and how they relate to humans.
“The more I study dogs and the more I study their brains, the more similarities I see to human brains,” Berns told WGCL-TV. “They are intelligent, they are emotional, and they’ve been ignored in terms of research and understanding how they think. So, we are all interested in trying to develop ways to understand how their minds work.”
Dr. Berns uses an MRI to test a dog’s brain.
“So, we’ve done experiments where we present odors to the dogs and these are things like the scent of other people in their house, the scent of other dogs in the house, as well as strange people and strange dogs,” Berns said. “And so what we found in that experiment is that the dogs reward processing center, so basically the part of the brain that is kind of the positive anticipation of things responds particularly strongly to the scent of their human.” ….
“Currently, we are trying to understand what dogs perceive about the world,” Berns said. “You know, what do they see when they see humans, dogs, other animals, cars, etc. so the idea is, at least in humans and even in certain chimpanzees and monkeys, there are parts of the brain specialized for visual processing of all of these things and so what we are trying to determine is whether a dog has that same kind of specialization.
Here’s Dr. Berns’ home page. He has written a book called How Dogs Love Us.
Anyone who has ever spent time with dogs (or cats for that matter) knows that pets express emotions through body language, facial expressions, and vocalizations; it’s nice to see there are some serious researchers trying to understand their emotions and thinking processes.
A couple more interesting reads . . .
At Talk to Action, the first two-parts of a three-part article on the influence of fundamentalist Catholocism on the Supreme Court by Frank Coccozelli: An Opus Focus on SCOTUS? A brief excerpt:
Beyond the creeping erosion of Roe, there is the disturbing reliance upon traditionalist Catholic teaching on grey area issues, such as a pregnancy endangering the life of the mother. As Justice Ginsburg noted in here dissent:
Today’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.
Where does this leave a Jewish woman whose life is endangered by a pregnancy? By the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Carhart, the Jewish teaching of saving the mother’s life in such circumstances is not respected. Vatican teaching is completely different. Instead it prohibits any abortion procedure that would be required not only if the choice is between the life of the mother and the fetus, but also where if no procedure is performed, a stillborn would result. That is an extreme teaching that many mainstream Catholics reject outright.
At Pando, Yasha Levine has a fascinating story about the bizarre and twisted interactions between the encryption service TOR and its most prominent employee Jacob Applebaum, the Department of Defense, the CIA, Edward Snowden, and Glenn Greenwald, Hall of Mirrors: Wikileaks volunteer helped build Tor, was funded by the Pentagon. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the Snowden story. Also check out Levine’s earlier article, Almost everyone involved in developing Tor was (or is) funded by the US government.
Also for Snowden junkies, Michael Kelley at Business Insider writes about “An 11-Day Hole In Snowden’s Story About Hong Kong.”
Why doesn’t the mainstream media ask any serious questions about Snowden and his closest supporters?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today?
We’re going to have to see what I come up with today because I openly admit to being extremely tired. We’ve had all this rain recently and it’s dark and gloomy all the time. Yesterday, it was so hard and heavy that the French Quarter flooded. So, here are a few things to consider before I head back to bed for awhile.
The Boston Globe features an article arguing that Southern Blacks and Hispanics will eventually trump angry, resentful, and backward white Republican voters in the South. If only. The analysis is by Bob Moser. The demographics have to be playing into white backlash which make the South the epicenter of voter suppression laws but it’s also a place where voter turnout is highly irregular.
The question is whether Democrats in these states are better served by following the region’s five-decade-long drift toward the GOP — or by betting that the climate is finally changing in their favor.
It’s a sign of things to come in states like North Carolina, where large influxes of Latino immigrants and “relocated Yankees,” both black and white, are tilting the demographic balance toward the Democrats and inspiring a new progressive movement. But despite Obama’s own surprising Southern breakthroughs — after Al Gore and John Kerry lost the entire region, he won three large Southern states in 2008 and two in 2012, falling just short in North Carolina — the region’s blue future is still a long-term proposition. Candidates like Hagan are stuck between the past, when Southern Democrats’ recipe for victory involved courting white moderates and conservatives, and a future in which they’ll be able to successfully campaign as full-throated, national-style Democrats. To win, Hagan and her compatriots must simultaneously woo independent-minded whites while persuading massive numbers of young voters and nonwhites, who lean left on both economic and social issues, to join them.
It’s an awkward proposition, to be sure. But the Democratic contenders have appeared hell-bent on making it look downright impossible.
In a poll by Landmark Communications released Sunday, Democrat Michelle Nunn has a commanding lead against both of her potential challengers in Georgia’s US Senate race. Against Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) Nunn is up by eight points, 49% to 41%. The poll also shows her with a nice lead against businessman David Perdue as Nunn leads him 48% to 42%. Perdue and Kingston are heading into a GOP primary runoff this coming Tuesday. The survey shows Kingston with a sizable lead as he is ahead by seven points, 48% to 41%.
While Nunn holds leads against both men, the thought is that she’d prefer to face Kingston in the general election. Atlanta-based political analyst Bill Crane had the following to say after this poll was released.
“I think Michelle Nunn would prefer to run against Jack Kingston. Twenty-two year incumbent, PAC money, special interest, her preferred race is the race that I think she’s going to get.”
Nunn taking the Georgia Senate seat would put a huge crimp in the plans of Republicans who feel they can take over the US Senate this November. Currently, the GOP needs to net six seats in the midterm to become the majority party in the Upper Chamber. Losing a Senate seat in a deep-red state that was previously held by a Republican will almost certainly prevent Republicans from taking over the Senate. While it is nearly a given that Democrats will lose seats this November, it is looking more and more promising that they will be able to retain control of the Senate.
There’s all kinds of things happening that have caused me to pull the blankets over my head. The horrors in the Gaza strip, the ongoing downed Malaysian jet catastrophe, and the week long visit of the Army of God to our city. They’re all over our women’s health clinics and they are creepy as creepy gets. Russia’s hand prints are all over the downed commercial airliner. Militants weirdly suggested that the people on the plane were all dead before the plane took off. WTF kind of craziness is this?
In a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters that it “strains credulity” to think pro-Russian separatists believed to have shot down MH17 didn’t have at least some help from Moscow. Kirby said the Buk is a “sophisticated piece of technology” that would likely require technical assistance from Russia.
Indeed, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said in June the U.S. military’s intelligence was that rebels were being trained in tanks and anti-aircraft capability across the border, before heading back into eastern Ukraine to put it into practice.
According to IHS Jane’s Defense, a resource for intelligence and defense analysis, operating a Buk requires a trained crew. While the government of Ukraine also has Buk missile systems, Jane’s notes that the Ukrainian military has none of the systems in the region near the MH17 crash, as they were overtaken by pro-Russian separatists.
“The system is not a simple system to use. You need at least four to six months of training and ongoing training to operate it,” Ronald Bishop, a former U.S. Air Force missile expert, told Australia’s Warwick Daily News. “To fire this system you need to have highly-specialized military training.”
It finally looks like Europe is getting fed up with Russia and their cronies. The response comes because of the careless treatments of the remains of the victims of the missile attack.
Investigators are still far from an official judgment of what brought down a Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew onboard. But the global court of public opinion, the verdict appears to be rendered.
Vladimir Putin is guilty.
The Russian President could once claim a semblance of a role as a global statesmen. But with the downing of a commercial airliner by what U.S. and Ukrainian officials suggest were pro-Moscow rebels using a missile supplied by Russia, Putin was facing a very personal barrage of worldwide condemnation that threatened to result in further sanctions on Russia if it did not rapidly change course in Ukraine.
Australia raised the prospect of banning Putin from a G-20 meeting of the world’s most powerful nations in November if he did not exert more pressure on the rebels who left corpses strewn on the ground for days,contaminated the crash site, and hampered an international investigation. Britain, meanwhile, openly accused the Russian leader of sponsoring “terrorism.” U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, appearing on multiple political talk shows Sunday, called this a “moment of truth” for Russia.
Particularly in Europe – a continent long leery of going too far to pressure Moscow over its support of separatists in Ukraine – initial shock was quickly gathering into outrage and action.
On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint phone call on Russia. A Downing Street spokesman said the three leaders agreed that the European Union “must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday.”
John Kerry gave Fox News a perfect opener during an appearance on Sunday. Fox is about as neocon as you can get and they love it when Israel goes on any killing spree. Kerry’s oops moment is interesting. It’s hard to believe some one as skilled in politics as Kerry didn’t assume a hot mike and inquiring minds.
In an unusual moment during “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace presented Secretary of State John Kerry with video recorded before he came on air.
Wallace introduced the segment as being in reference to civilians killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip. “While you were on camera and while on microphone,” Wallace said, “you spoke to one of your top aides between the interviews about the situation in Israel.” He then played what the network had recorded. In the clip, Kerry is holding a cellphone conversation with someone. The person on the other end of the call isn’t identified, and the audio from the other participant is staticky.
Kerry’s comments are clear. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” he says, then repeats it. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” It’s an apparent reference to Israel’s insistence that its incursion into the region would be limited. “It’s escalating significantly,” the person on the phone replies, and Kerry then says: “We’ve got to get over there. I think we ought to go tonight.” He then calls it “crazy” to be “sitting around.”
“When you said it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Wallace asked, are you “upset that the Israelis are going too far?”
“It’s very difficult in these situations,” Kerry said, repeating that the United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself. He then explained his comments by saying, “I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does in respect to young children and civilians.”
I’m getting really tired of every one fellating Bibi. He’s got to be high up there on the War Criminals list now and it’s about time we pressure Israel for a regime change. To hate Bibi is not to hate Jewish people. It’s to abhor genocide. I just really have gotten to the point where I hate religion altogether and the Abrahamic brands are just about the worst of it all. It’s just evil. Here’s the resident evil religious whackos plaguing New Orleans for the week. I’m probably going to go do some clinic escorting midweek.
A week of planned anti-abortion protests in the New Orleans area began Saturday morning (July 19) with about 55 people affiliated with Operation Save America gathered at the Causeway Medical Clinic in Metairie.
Shortly after, 40 picketed a private home in Carrollton, some holding posters with graphic images of aborted fetuses. Organizer Rusty Thomas of Waco, Texas, said activists are still arriving and other demonstrations are planned for coming days.
The organization said it was encouraged by anew Louisiana law that opponents say will likely shut down three of the five clinics in the state that perform abortions. The law, which supporters say is aimed at improving patient safety, goes into effect Sept. 1.
Richard Fegan of Mandeville, outside the Metairie location, said, “We’re trying to shut the place down because God gives life and God takes life … this place is trying to be God.”
Planned Parenthood said the protests are sparked by the organization’s upcoming new facility on South Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. No one was gathered at the construction site Saturday morning.
“Planned Parenthood’s focus is the health and safety of women, men and families in Louisiana,” said Melissa Flournoy, state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, in a statement. “These extremist organizations are trying to stop a new health center from serving this community, but in the end they’re only helping us build more support.”
It’s just hard to know what to do with people that just want to inflict their view of the world on the rest of us. What is with all this craziness? It’s like we’ve not gotten much farther than when we crawled out of the caves. At least back then, we could only do limited damage.
Anyway, naptime is calling my name folks! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I thought I’d just try to put up a bunch of interesting articles that I’ve read recently, so I’m pretty sure there’s no theme here. I guess we’ll see as I meander into each of them.
Economics started out as the study of Political Economy. Many of its early thinkers were definitely more essayists than researchers using data and statistical methods to look for trends. The study of what we call frictions–or things in markets that cause them to stray from a perfect model—has been really important since we’ve learned to use data to empirically test theoretical models and constructs. It’s interesting to go back to many of these early philosophical writers and notice that their gut feelings–as expressed in their essays–are as germane now as they were then. Karl Polanyi critiqued early market Capitalism in the 20th century in “The Great Transformation.” Polanyi argued that the idea of an efficient market economy was basically as utopian as its Marxist counterpoint. Two sociologists have written a book that revisits the Polanyi critique. Is the Free Market an impossible Utopia? This is from an interview with the two researchers.
Polanyi’s core thesis is that there is no such thing as a free market; there never has been, nor can there ever be. Indeed he calls the very idea of an economy independent of government and political institutions a “stark utopia”—utopian because it is unrealizable, and the effort to bring it into being is doomed to fail and will inevitably produce dystopian consequences. While markets are necessary for any functioning economy, Polanyi argues that the attempt to create a market society is fundamentally threatening to human society and the common good. In the first instance the market is simply one of many different social institutions; the second represents the effort to subject not just real commodities (computers and widgets) to market principles but virtually all of what makes social life possible, including clean air and water, education, health care, personal, legal, and social security, and the right to earn a livelihood. When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls “fictitious commodities”) are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue.
Free market doctrine aims to liberate the economy from government “interference”, but Polanyi challenges the very idea that markets and governments are separate and autonomous entities. Government action is not some kind of “interference” in the autonomous sphere of economic activity; there simply is no economy without government rules and institutions. It is not just that society depends on roads, schools, a justice system, and other public goods that only government can provide. It is thatall of the key inputs into the economy—land, labor, and money—are only created and sustained through continuous government action. The employment system, the arrangements for buying and selling real estate, and the supplies of money and credit are organized and maintained through the exercise of government’s rules, regulations, and powers.
By claiming it is free-market advocates who are the true utopians, Polanyi helps explain the free market’s otherwise puzzlingly tenacious appeal: It embodies a perfectionist ideal of a world without “coercive” constraints on economic activities while it fiercely represses the fact that power and coercion are the unacknowledged features of all market participation.
I have another study for BB. This one was published in the July issue of Cognitive Science. The authors found that children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in “fantastical stories” are fictional. Children raised in a religious environment even “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”
In “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.”
However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism. The authors believed that these children would “think of them as akin to fairy tales,” judging “the events described in them as implausible or magical and conclude that the protagonists in such narratives are only pretend.”
And yet, “this prediction is likely to be wrong,” because “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, children “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person — even if the narrative includes impossible events.”
The researchers took 66 children between the ages of five and six and asked them questions about stories — some of which were drawn from fairy tales, others from the Old Testament — in order to determine whether the children believed the characters in them were real or fictional.
“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.
Archaeologists in Norway have found what could potentially be an 8,000-year-old human skull – which contains traces of brain matter.The finding at a site in Stokke, Vestfold, could shed light on life in the Stone Age, a period that lasted roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 6000 BC and 2000 BC.It was among a number of discoveries unearthed during the excavation, The Local reported.
It is too early to tell whether the bone remains are those of a human or an animal, but early tests have dated the skull to around 5,900BC, placing it within the prehistoric Stone Age period.
Gaute Reitan, dig site leader, told NRK that the “one of a kind” skull contained a grey substance that appeared to be brain matter.
But he said it was not possible to confirm if it belongs to a human.
The Guardian reports that the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists are scurrying to cover up their guilt in the shoot down of the Malaysian commercial jet killing hundreds of people.
The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.
There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.
The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn. The video could not be independently verified.
Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.
Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.
A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”
Video footage allegedly taken on Thursday appeared to support the idea that pro-Russia separatists had been to blame. It showed a Buk battery seemingly being moved in the rebel-held area between Snizhne and Torez close to the crash site. A still picture allegedly shows a missile in vertical launch mode beside a supermarket in Torez. However, the location has still to be established.
Ukrainian intelligence has published a tape said to be a recording between rebels and Russian intelligence in which they realise there has been a catastrophic blunder. One recording is said to be between a rebel commander, Igor Bezler, and a Russian intelligence officer in which he says: “We have just shot down a plane.” A second recording from an unidentified source puts the blame on Cossack militiamen.
Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.
At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.
Nato had Awacs surveillance and command-and-control planes flying in the Baltics around the time of the crash, but Pentagon officials did not think the aircraft picked up indications of the disaster.
Bob Latiff, a former US weapons developer for the air force and the CIA and now a professor at Notre Dame University, said he leaned towards a belief that it was a case of mistaken identity on the part of those who pressed the button.
“A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.
“My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 ft or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”
Latiff said that if they had only one radar, as Ukrainian officials suggest, it would have been pointed at the target. A second, rotating one would normally have been part of a battery to pick up other planes in the immediate vicinity, but he said even that would not have established whether it was a commercial plane and there would normally have been communications equipment to pick up signals showing the plane was non-military.
Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russia separatists or Russia itself.
But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.
So, I still can’t discern much of a pattern here but I just found all these links very interesting. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Friday Reads: Israel Invades Gaza, Downing of Jet a Ukraine a “Game Changer,” and the Unrelenting War on WomenPosted: July 18, 2014
Lately I’ve been remarking about how slow the news is in these dog days of summer. Suddenly there is lots going on–even on a Friday–and the news isn’t good. It’s difficult to say which is worse: the escalating battle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza or the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. And of course there is the ongoing war on women’s reproductive freedom. This post is going to be a link dump without a lot of commentary because, quite frankly, I’m at a loss for words.
Israel Invades Gaza
The LA Times reports: Israeli troops and tanks move into the Gaza Strip.
After 10 days of Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered ground troops into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, escalating an exchange of fire that has claimed more than 240 lives, all but one of them Palestinian.
Under cover of darkness, tanks rolled across the northern border of the coastal enclave, backed by intense shelling from the land, air and sea all along the frontier, witnesses said.
The immediate objective was to strike at tunnels Hamas and its allies use to smuggle weapons and fighters into Israel, according to a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office….
Israeli officials said Netanyahu made the decision to send in ground forces after Hamas, the militant movement that has controlled the enclave since 2007, rejected a cease-fire brokered by Egypt this week and fired rockets at Israel during a five-hour truce Thursday that was requested by the United Nations. The truce was meant to allow Gaza’s battered residents to stock up on food, cash and other necessities.
There’s much more information at the link.
As rockets continued to rain down on Israeli cities, a military spokesman said the mission’s expansion was “not time bound” and was aimed to ensure Hamas operatives were “pursued, paralyzed and threatened” as it targeted “terrorist infrastructure” in the north, south and east of Gaza “in parallel.”
As midnight approached Thursday, residents of some sparsely populated farmland in northern Gaza were cowering in their homes, afraid to answer mobile phones or peek out windows. Some sent text messages reporting that they could hear tank shelling, heavy artillery, and F-16s dropping bombs. Moussa al-Ghoul, 63, who lives northwest of Beit Lahiya, said his neighborhood had turned into “a war zone” with tanks surrounding his home, having destroyed those of two of his sons. He said shells were landing “everywhere.”
Gaza news outlets reported that electricity had been cut to 80 percent of the coastal territory after cables bringing power from Israel were damaged….
“We will strike Hamas and we are determined to restore peace to the state of Israel,” the military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, told reporters in a conference call. “It will progress according to the situation assessment and according to our crafted and designed plan of action to enable us to carry out this mission.”
Israel began to call up 18,000 reservists, adding to 50,000 already mobilized in recent days; Colonel Lerner said the ground forces would include infantry and artillery units, armored and engineer corps, supported by Israel’s “vast intelligence capabilities,” air force and navy.
Again, many more details at the link.
From Reuters a short time ago this morning: Israel steps up Gaza ground offensive, civilian casualties grow.
Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and warned it could “significantly widen” an operation Palestinian officials said was killing ever greater numbers of civilians.
Palestinian health officials said 27 Palestinians, including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel sent ground forces into the densely-populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians on Thursday.
The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen while another 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Islamist Hamas-dominated territory.
One Israeli soldier was killed and several others were wounded in the operations, in which some 150 targets, including 21 concealed rocket launchers and four tunnels, have been attacked, according to the military.
Read more at the link.
I don’t even know what to say about this conflict other than I’ve pretty much lost any sympathy I once had for Israel. I can’t understand why the Israeli people keep electing far right warmongering leaders.
Downing of Malaysian Airlines Jet Over Ukraine
After the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane with nearly 300 people on board, the conflict in Ukraine has become a full blown international crisis.
From the Kyiv Post this morning: SBU intercepts phone conversations of separatists admitting downing a civilian plane (FULL TRANSCRIPT; VIDEO).
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was allegedly shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some 80 kilometers north-west of Donetsk, according to recordings of intercepted phone calls between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups, released by the country’s security agency (SBU).
One phone call apparently was made at 4:40 p.m. Kyiv time, or 20 minutes after the plane crash, by Igor Bezler, who the SBU says is a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. He reports to a person identified by Ukraine’s SBU as a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Vasili Geranin regarding the shot down plane, which is about to be examined by the militants.
The second intercepted conversation released by the Security Service of Ukraine was apparently between militants nicknamed “Major” and “Greek” immediately upon inspection of the crash site.
“It’s 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft,” Major is recorded as saying, as he admitted to seeing no weapons on site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”
In the third part of conversation Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin talking to an unidentified militant cynically suggests that the Malaysia Airlines airplane could’ve been carrying spies, as, otherwise, it would have no business flying in that area.
Read the rest of the transcript at the link–lots of “Oh shit”-type quotes.
Julia Ioffe writes at The New Republic, The Crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 is a Game Changer: This Conflict is Now Officially Out of Control.
Over the last couple of months, pro-Russian separatists have beendowningUkrainian military planes with increasing regularity—and mounting casualties on the Ukrainian side. Just earlier Thursday, separatists had shot down another one. All of that seemed to undermine the narrative, propagated by the Kremlin, that the separatists were just a ragtag people’s militia who didn’t stand a chance against a proper, organized military. The constant downing of Ukrainian jets showed that these men were equipped with some pretty serious stuff: You can’t really shoot down a jet with a Kalashnikov.
And, in fact, Russian a state media report from late June indicates the rebels got a hold of a Buk missile system, a Russian/Soviet surface-to-air missile system. Rebels are now denying that they shot down the plane, but there are now screenshots floating around the Russian-language internet from what seems to be the Facebook page of Igor Strelkov, a rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, showing plumes of smoke and bragging about shooting down a Ukrainian military Antonov plane shortly before MH17 fell. “Don’t fly in our skies,” he reportedly wrote. If that’s true, it would seem rebels downed the jetliner, having mistaken it for a Ukrainian military jet….
Make no mistake: this is a really, really, really big deal. This is the first downing of a civilian jetliner in this conflict and, if it was the rebels who brought it down, all kinds of ugly things follow. For one thing, what seemed to be gelling into a frozen local conflict has now broken into a new phase, one that directly threatens European security. The plane, let’s recall, was flying from Amsterdam.
For another, U.S. officials have long been saying that there’s only one place that rebels can get this kind of heavy, sophisticated weaponry: Russia. This is why a fresh round of sanctions was announced yesterday. Now, the U.S. and a long-reluctant Europe may be forced to do more and implement less surgical and more painful sanctions.
This also seems to prove that Russia has lost control of the rebels, who have been complaining for some time of being abandoned by President Vladimir Putin. There is no way that, a day after criticizingthe recklessness of American foreign policy, his military shoots down a passenger plane. Rather, it seems that the rebels made a mistake that paints Putin into a corner. Putin hates corners, and when he’s backed into one, he tends to lash out.
Adding another level of shock to the story, Buzzfeed reports that at least 100 passengers on the Mayaysian jet were on their way to an international AIDS conference.
And a related story from from the WSJ, Ukraine Accuses Russia of Shooting Down Fighter Jet: Ministry of Defense Says Missiles Probably Fired By Aircraft Patrolling Border.
MOSCOW—Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia’s armed forces of shooting down one of its fighter jets over Ukrainian territory, marking Kiev’s most direct accusation yet of Moscow’s involvement in the separatist conflict in the country’s east.
A Russian military plane fired on and downed a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet that was flying over the town of Amvrosiivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Wednesday night, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a briefing.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said the jet was shot in the tail section from the direction of the Russian border while it was turning around at approximately 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. (Follow the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine.)
“In this way, Russia has executed another provocation,” the ministry said in a statement. “The bombardment probably came from air-to-air missiles fired by a pair of Russian Armed Forces aircraft patrolling the border in a certain area.”
Also well worth a read: at Pando, Mark Ames offers Five things to consider about the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in Ukraine.
The Ongoing War on Women’s Reproductive Rights
Laura Bassett at HuffPo reports, White House: Employers Must Disclose Objections To Covering Birth Control.
The Department of Labor updated its website to indicate that closely held for-profit corporations must include in their insurance plans “a description of the extent to which preventive services (which includes contraceptive services) are covered under the plan.” If the company chooses to opt out of covering any of the 20 contraceptives required by the Affordable Care Act, it has 60 days to disclose the change to its employees.
A senior administration official said the move was in response to the Senate failing to pass a bill Wednesday that would have required all for-profit employers, regardless of their owners’ religious objections, to cover the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception in their health care plans. The bill would have overridden a recent Supreme Court decision that allowed Hobby Lobby, a craft supply company owned by evangelical Christians, to opt out of covering certain contraceptives to which the owners religiously object.
“Yesterday, a majority of the Senate voted for a bill to keep bosses from interfering in a woman’s health care,” the official said. “Now the House should act. In the meantime, we are making clear that if a corporation like Hobby Lobby drops coverage of contraceptive services from its health plan, it must do so in the light of day by letting its workers and their families know.”
The clarification is not a new rule. Current law already states that employers must disclose changes in their health benefits to employees. But the new guidance on the ACA makes clear that the disclosure requirement applies to those corporations opting out of birth control coverage after the Hobby Lobby decision.
Jezebel tells it like it is: Your Employers Must Tell You If They Think You’re a Babykilling Slut.
After the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision went down, many women wondered if they would suddenly find themselves at the mercy of their boss’s heretofore unknown beliefs that women who take birth control are abortion-happy harlots. Unfortunately, the answer is still yes. Fortunately, thanks to new rules set forth by the White House today, your boss has to inform you if and when this is happening….
Ideally, today’s directive will force companies with “religious beliefs” to be straightforward with their employees rather than sneaky about how badly they’re hosing everyone. And critics of this directive might wonder what the benefit is. If companies are run by zealots, then what good will telling the employees do?
Here’s what this “inform your employees of your conscientious objections” mandate will do: it will leave a paper trail that disgruntled employees could easily pass onto media outlets, which media outlets can then convey to the general public. The public can then avoid shopping at places run by people who think that birth control is murder.
And now’s as good a time as any to say this: if your boss informs you that your birth control is no longer covered because Jesus Loves Zygotes, let us know.
Those are my recommendations for today. What stories are you reading and blogging about?