So, I’m going to write briefly about something that’s been fascinating me lately. That’s the incredible decrease in oil prices and the impact that it’s having on Russia and other oil producing nations outside of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia . I’m a sucker for a good currency crisis since it’s basically right up my research alley.
Also, oil has been one of those commodities that’s pretty much dominated my adult life. I remember having to buy gas on even days because the Dealer’s tags on our cars ended in 8 during the oil crisis. I know what it did to my dad’s business as a car dealer. Basically, oil’s been the most fungible commodity in modern times. No modern economy can live without it. We’ve definitely fought wars to control it. Oil’s being weaponized like never before.
There are several key factors driving down your gas at the pump. First, the global economy has slowed down so that the demand for oil has tapered off. That’s one thing that’s been at play. But the more interesting factor has been the increase in supply which is related to the interesting way that Saudis have been ignoring OPEC quotas and inching up the supply. There’s been some rumors going around–actual conspiracy theories– that they are doing so for three reasons. First, they want to make sure that the nascent tar sands oil industry in North America isn’t profitable. Second, they want to hurt Iran, Syria, and Iraq and any other Shia nation involved with oil production. The third reason is to get at Russia. I want to share what I’ve found on these fronts with you. It has the feel of a new kind of cold war and the opposite of the gas wars of the 1970s.
In recent weeks, the fall in the Russian ruble and Russian stock markets closely tracked the declines in global oil prices. But everything changed on December 15. The oil price remained stable, but the ruble and the stock-price indices lost 30% in the subsequent 24 hours. An unprecedented effort by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) in the wee hours of December 16 to stabilize the ruble, by hiking the interest rate from 10.5% to 17%, proved useless.
The cause of Russia’s “Black Monday” was readily apparent: the government bailout of state-owned Rosneft, the country’s largest oil company. Usually, bailouts calm markets; but this one recalled early post-Soviet experiments, when the CBR issued direct loans to enterprises – invariably fueling higher inflation. The CBR’s governor at the time, Viktor Gerashchenko, was once dubbed the world’s worst central banker.
In 2014, the CBR is more constrained than it was in Gerashchenko’s era: it cannot lend directly to firms. Yet it has also become more sophisticated at achieving the same ends that Gerashchenko sought.
In October, Rosneft issued $11 billion worth of ruble-denominated bonds (an unparalleled amount for the Russian market, equivalent to 70% of the total value of corporate bonds issued in Russia this year). The coupon on these bonds was actually 1.5 percentage points below sovereign bonds of similar maturity, which is also unusual, especially given that Rosneft currently is subject to Western sanctions.
Then, unnamed investors (allegedly the largest Russian state banks) benefited from the CBR’s decision on December 12 to allow these bonds to be used as collateral for three-year CBR ruble loans at the policy rate. Moreover, the CBR scheduled a special auction for such loans on December 15 – with the total amount of the loans similar to that of Rosneft’s bond issue. Thus, the CBR would be able to provide a massive pile of rubles to Rosneft at below-market rates. So why did the deal trigger a panic?
At first glance, this deal was intended to meet contemporary Russia’s most important economic challenge. Sanctions have cut off Russian banks and companies from Western financial markets. Russian companies have to repay or refinance about $300 billion of debt over the coming two years. Some of this debt is owed to Russian companies’ offshore owners, who will certainly be happy to roll it over. But in most cases, firms’ liabilities comprise real debt owed to major international banks.
Global investors are anxiously awaiting some kind of strategy for recovery. Actions by the Central Bank of Russia have been very curious. All of the countries that depend on oil exports for huge amounts of their funding are in trouble. Russia is probably just the most obvious of them. This goes for Iran also. That’s because both of them are heavily weighed down by UN sanctions.
The non-OPEC producing countries (Russia, Brazil and Norway, as examples) are starting to become backed into an economic corner. In all of these countries, oil represents a major export and helps finance other economic activities. For example, as Russia sells oil in the open market (priced in dollars) at $60 per barrel, the revenue in dollars is 50 percent less than was the case in June of this year. Since June, the Russian Ruble has declined by 59 percent (to the U.S. dollar). A “crash” in the value of any currency leads to very high inflation (imports are now more expensive than would have otherwise been the case), which leads to potential civil unrest. On a global scale, the “wealth” of Russia as a nation, priced in Rubles, has declined by 59 percent in the last six months.
This is the stuff that leads to revolutions. Oil, other commodities and vodka are about the only exports Russia creates and helps fund their country’s spending. They are net importers of most all consumption goods (health supplies, food, etc.). In their own currency, those imports are now 59 percent more expensive than they were this past summer.
To some, the problem Russia currently faces sounds like something Vladimir Putin created by his dalliances in the Crimea and Ukraine. There is some truth to this as those actions led to economic sanctions unleashed by the West on Russia. The oil pricing issue is indirectly due to his destructive behavior. What really matters to the rest of the world at this stage is the potential for economic weakness to spread to the rest of the world from Russia… monetary contagion, anyone?
How would this happen? Why would the rest of the world be negatively affected by weakness in the Russian Ruble? Russia’s economy is the world’s eighth largest (as measured by the IMF ), a little larger than Italy and a little smaller than Brazil. At about $2.1 trillion in GDP, Russia is dwarfed by the United States at $17.5 trillion. If Russia’s economy contracts by 4 percent (which potentially is in the cards for 2015), it will impact the world’s GDP by about $84 billion, or .1 percent. No big deal. However, let’s think not about the world’s income statement (GDP) but rather about the world’s balance sheet – the world’s banking system.
Most Russian national debt is priced in Rubles and the value of that debt has collapsed from six months ago when the Ruble was higher and Russian interest rates were dramatically lower. Russia’s public debt is $216 billion. The Russian benchmark interest rate was at 7.5 percent in June of this year – that interest rate is now 17 percent.
How much this impacts any other country has a lot to do on how many banks hold Ruble-denominated assets or liabilities. The interesting thing is that Saudi Arabia seems no where done with its dalliance in increasing oil supply. This particular bit of news is what motivated me to finally bring this up here. The emirates and Saudi Arabia seem willing to dig into their own sovereign wealth and their countries’ spending to see this through. They must be extremely serious about something. Is it the threat from Shia Muslims? From US Fracking Oil? Do they just plain hate the Russians?
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Thursday endorsed a 2015 budget that projects a slight increase in spending and a significant drop in revenues due to sliding oil prices, resulting in a nearly $39 billion deficit
In a sign of mounting financial pressure, the Finance Ministry said the government would try to cut back on salaries, wages and allowances, which “contribute to about 50 percent of total budgeted expenditures.” That could stir resentment among the kingdom’s youth, who make up a majority of the population and are increasingly struggling to find affordable housing and salaries that cover their cost of living.
The price of oil— the backbone of Saudi Arabia’s economy — has fallen by about a half since the summer. Saudi Arabia is extremely wealthy, but there are deep wealth disparities and youth unemployment is expected to mushroom absent a dramatic rise in private sector job creation. The International Monetary Fund says almost two-thirds of employed Saudis work for the government.
A the height of Arab Spring protests sweeping the region in 2011, King Abdullah pledged $120 billion to fund a number of projects, including job creation and hikes in public sector wages. The move was largely seen as an effort to appease the public and blunt any challenges to monarchical rule.
Associate Fellow and energy researcher at Chatham House, Valerie Marcel, said massive government spending across the Gulf on public sector salaries is “really the thing that keeps the lid on the bottle.” She said that for now the Arab monarchies of the Gulf can afford to run deficits due to surpluses accumulated over the years from high oil prices.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.
However, analysis shows the reasoning is complex, and may go beyond simply taking down the price to gain back lost marketshare.
“What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil?” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro asked rhetorically in October. “To harm Russia.”
Many believe the oil price plunge is the result of deliberate and well-planned collusion on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia to punish Russia and Iran for supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria.
Punishing Assad and friends
Proponents of this theory point to a Sept. 11 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was during that meeting that a deal was hammered out between Kerry and Abdullah. In it, the Saudis would support Syrian airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS), in exchange for Washington backing the Saudis in toppling Assad.
If in fact a deal was struck, it would make sense, considering the long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its chief rival in the region: Iran. By opposing Syria, Abdullah grabs the opportunity to strike a blow against Iran, which he sees as a powerful regional rival due to its nuclear ambitions, its support for militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and its alliance with Syria, which it provides with weapons and funding. The two nations are also divided by religion, with the majority of Saudis following the Sunni version of Islam, and most Iranians considering themselves Shi’ites.
“The conflict is now a full-blown proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is playing out across the region,” Reuters reported on Dec. 15. “Both sides increasingly see their rivalry as a winner-take-all conflict: if the Shi’ite Hezbollah gains an upper hand in Lebanon, then the Sunnis of Lebanon—and by extension, their Saudi patrons—lose a round to Iran. If a Shi’ite-led government solidifies its control of Iraq, then Iran will have won another round.”
The Saudis know the Iranians are vulnerable on the oil price. Experts say the country needs $140 a barrel oil to balance its budget; at sub-$60 prices, the Saudis succeed in pressuring Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, possibly containing its nuclear ambitions and making the country more pliable to the West, which has the power to reduce or lift sanctions if Iran cooperates.
Adding credence to this theory, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting earlier this month that the fall in oil prices was “politically motivated” and a “conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world.”
So, you can see, there’s a little bit of economy theory blended with conspiracy theory here. Frankly, I”m all for Saudi Arabia crippling American Fracking even though I’m sitting in a state where things will only go from bad to worse in this situation. (Although I will mention I’m actively looking at real estate in Washington State right now.)
Despite repetition in countless media accounts and analysts’ notes over the past few weeks, though, the idea of a “sheikhs vs. shale” battle to control global oil supplies has precious little evidence behind it. The Saudi-led decision to keep OPEC’s wells pumping is a direct strike by Riyadh on two already hobbled geopolitical rivals, Iran and Russia, whose support for the Syrian government and other geostrategic machinations are viewed as far more serious threats to the kingdom than the inconvenience of competing for market share with American frackers.
Among the world’s oil producing nations, few suffer more from the Saudi move than Tehran and Moscow. At a time when both are already saddled with economic sanctions — Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons technology — the collapse of oil prices has put unprecedented pressure on these regimes. For Russia, the crisis has hit very hard, with the ruble losing 40 percent of its value to the dollar since October. This is particularly problematic since Russian state-owned oil firms have gone on a dollar-borrowing spree in recent years; now, servicing that debt looks very ominous.
True, Saudi OPEC minister Ali al-Naimi insisted last month that the move was intended to target shale. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? After all, his OPEC counterparts were standing beside him — including the OPEC minister from Iran.
The fact is, Saudi Arabia has little to fear from shale. Saudi Arabia’s huge reserves of conventional oil can and probably will be produced for decades after the shale boom has run its course — which the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects to happen by 2050 or so — and at much lower costs.
For all our worries over Russia, however, we in Britain should not lose sight of the humiliation of another swaggering and once-mighty force in world politics, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). When it burst on the world scene 40 years ago, OPEC terrified the wasteful West.
Over the previous decades, we had grown used to abundant oil, bought mostly from Middle Eastern producers — with little global muscle — at rock- bottom prices.
However, OPEC changed that. By restricting supply, the cartel quadrupled the oil price, from $3 to $12.
Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there. Above, the country’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Naimi
That is only a fraction of today’s price — but the oil crisis sparked by the rocketing cost in 1974 was enough to lead to queues at filling stations and national panics in the pitifully unprepared industrialised world.
Four decades later, Saudi Arabia has become one of the richest countries in the world, with reserves totalling nearly $900 billion.
But the rest of the world is less at its mercy than it once was. Here in Britain, our energy consumption is dropping remorselessly — the result of increased energy efficiency.
Moreover, many other nations now produce oil. And oil can be replaced by other fuels, such as natural gas, which OPEC does not control.
Also, OPEC no longer has the discipline or the clout to dominate the market, and we in Britain are among the big winners from all this, reaping the benefits of lower costs to fill up our cars and power our industries.
At its meeting in Vienna last month, the OPEC oil cartel — which controls nearly 40 per cent of global production — faced a fateful choice.
Would it curb production and thus, by reducing supplies, try to ratchet the oil price back to something near $100 a barrel — the level most of its members need to balance their books? Or would it let the glut continue?
The organisation’s 12 member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela and Nigeria, chose to do nothing, proving that its once-mighty power has withered. Oil prices subsequently fell even further.
One central problem is that several of OPEC’s members detest each other for a variety of reasons.
Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.
They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
In Moscow, Vladimir Putin does not have that luxury — and the Saudis know it.
They revile Russia, too, for its military support of President Assad, and for its sale of advanced weapons to Iran.
So there’s the piece on why Russian and Iran are targeted. Anyway, unless you’re a CIA analyst specializing that area with access to all the back and forth, it’s hardly possible to untangle all these wicked webs. It is evident, however, that the Saudis have some bones to pick with a lot of folks and picking away they are.
It will be interesting to watch this unfold. I have no doubt this will have bigger implications and I also know that most folks aren’t following this. I’m also pretty sure the usual news outlets are giving this short shrift. You can tell if you if follow any of my links because only one goes to the NY Times. The rest are mags that are read by very few folks.
So …. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
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There is a huge storm in the Bering Sea, this thing has had made itself over more than Madonna…Seriously!
The storm started out as a tropical cyclone, a typhoon named Nuri.
From there it transformed and became a northern bomb cyclone when it made its way into the cold Bering Sea…and this week, it is going to drag it’s big ass down across the Country…evolving into one hell of an arctic blast.
So y’all get ready, we are going to be in for some more images like the ones you see accompanying this post today.
The storm, remnants of Nuri, which was previously categorized as a typhoon, is currently packing hurricane-force winds that reached 180 miles per hour at its peak while barreling through the Bering Sea, and parts of the islands have already sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.
The storm is expected to be far stronger than Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the Northeast in 2012.
A massive storm in the Bering Sea, off the western Alaska coast and to the east of Russia, strengthened enough to be considered the strongest storm that the turbulent region has ever seen. It may not be an official record, however, as the minimum central pressure of 924 millibars (mb) was estimated by meteorologists, since the storm is over the open ocean off the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The previous record-lowest sea level pressure in a Bering Sea storm was 925 mb, set in October 1977 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. This storm also likely sets a record for the strongest storm observed in the North Pacific Ocean, although the relatively sparse data for that region makes it possible that there were some stronger systems that were missed by ships or surface observing stations.
In general, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
The tatters of Super Typhoon Nuri battered the Bering Sea and its Aleutian Islands Saturday with historic winds and rains, as the rest of the US braced for the moment when the so-called bomb cyclone transmogrifies into something more like a polar bomb.
Snow could start falling in Montana and the Great Lakes as early as Wednesday, and New York could easily face temperatures 15 degrees below normal by next weekend as Nuri, now downgraded to a mid-latitude storm, forces a heavy wedge of Arctic air deep into the middle of the country and then across the South and East next week.
“This strong low pressure system will cause the jet stream to buckle, creating a ridge in the western United States and solidifying a deep trough in the Eastern US,” writes McCall Vrydaghs, a meteorologist for WHIO TV in Dayton, Ohio, predicting highs rising only into the low 30s for many parts of the country. “Keep in mind, if this same weather pattern were to set-up during the heart of winter, we would be looking at temperatures far lower.”
I think you will find this interesting…
The Farmer’s Almanac has called for an early and cold winter for large parts of the country, but research into another early and thick Siberian snowpack suggests that the winter may hang on, as well, deep into next year.
“There’s a theory that the amount of snow covering Eurasia in October is an indication of how much icy air will sweep down from the Arctic in December and January, pouring over parts of North America, Europe and East Asia,” writes Bloomberg’s Brian Sullivan. “Last year, the snow level across Eurasia was the fourth highest for the month in records going back to 1967. In January, frigid temperatures dubbed ‘the polar vortex’ slid out of the Arctic to freeze large portions of the U.S.”
The storm that remained from Typhoon Nuri on Friday had a central pressure of 924 millibars, according to the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center, making it the most intense storm ever in the wind-whipped Bering Sea.
In 1977, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, recorded the previous low pressure of 925 millibars during another real howler.
A “bomb” as a meteorological term is a drop in a storm’s central pressure of more than 24 millibars in 24 hours. What remains of Nuri is expected to drop as much as 50 millibars in 24 hours – arguably a “double bomb.” It’s that intense low pressure that’s going to buckle the jet stream as ex-Nuri bulldozes across the Bering Sea.
Let’s move on from Cold Arctic Blast to a new Cold War.
Can you believe it has been 25 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall?
East Germany in 1986 celebrating 25 years of the Berlin Wall.
Sneaking a Kiss through the Berlin wall
Steve McCurry Berlin, Germany 1988
Mstislav Rostropovich playing Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite no 2, at the Berlin Wall’s Checkpoint Charlie (November 1989)
November 9. 1989
November 9. 1989
November 9. 1989
November 9. 1989
November 9. 1989
November 9. 1989
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library 2010 – 31 by JasonianPhotography on Flickr. A piece of the Berlin Wall. November 9th of this year will be the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall.
40. The excitement in the air the day the Berlin Wall came down.
Fuck! I think this deserves higher than number 40….but the fact that it was even included in this list from Buzzfeed (compared to some of the other items, like say #’s 1 and 7.)
Postcard from Berlin. A woman hiding her Deutsch Marks at Checkpoint Charlie on July 11, 1948.
Just that the Fall of the Berlin Wall is part of my ’80’s kid culture and history makes me so damn proud.It was a time when we could breathe easier…y’all know what I am talking about.
I do think it was something good that came out of the Reagan era. (I have to admit, I did like Gorbachev better than Reagan. But that was because even back when I was 10 years old during the 1980 Presidential campaign, I knew Reagan would screwed Carter with that shitty display/take credit for the agreement/whatever to release the Iran Hostages.)
1961, Conrad Schumann became one of the most famous defectors from East Germany. Schumann was a 19 year old soldier on duty guarding the construction of the Berlin Wall.
In 1961, East Germany erected a wall — initially barbed wire, eventually concrete — in the middle of Berlin to prevent its citizens from fleeing the communist country to West Germany during the height of the Cold War.
It has been reported that 136 people died while trying to escape, but the total number is unknown.
The wall finally came down at the beginning of November in 1989, part of the reunification of East and West Germany.
Here are images from this past weekend’s recognition of the construction of the wall 50 years ago, as well as historic images.
Most people can still remember scenes from the wild days and nights of November 1989, when after decades of division, jubilant Germans tore down the Berlin Wall. But fewer can recall how the city looked in the weeks when the wall went up. The bleak undertaking began 50 years ago this month, on Aug. 13, 1961.
In the 12 years before the wall was built, some 2.5 million people fled East Germany to the West, most of them through the divided city of Berlin. The concrete-and-barbed-wire barrier, which eventually stretched 27 miles, separated the Soviet-controlled eastern half of the city from the western sectors administered by Britain, France and the U.S. At least 136 people were killed while trying to cross the border illegally.
One of the people who were there during the grim construction was British photojournalist Don McCullin…
“It could almost have been as if I had wandered into Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin. I met up with the correspondent but we didn’t work together. In the evenings we’d meet and I’d tell him what I’d photographed. I went straight down to Friedrichstrasse and started working with my Rolleicord of course, I was sitting on the biggest story in the world. I saw the East Germans drilling the foundations and building the Wall breeze block by breeze block.
The Americans were facing the East Germans across Friedrichstrasse and there was enormous tension. In places, Berlin looked like the war had finished just the day before. It was turning into the Berlin that John Le Carré was to describe. I watched the international photographers pass through. I was in awe of these professionals. I was like a little camera-club person from north London working with the camera my mother had retrieved from a pawnshop. But fate was waving some magic wand, directing me. It was so exciting. I felt I was in the right place at the right time, I had an almost magnetic emotional sense of direction pulling me to extraordinary places.”
These never before published photographs, made from negatives that were lost for decades, are a powerful record of the disbelieving Germans, witnesses to a wound being opened in world affairs that would take almost 30 years to close.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned in a speech in Berlin on Saturday that East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis were threatening to push the world into a new Cold War, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Gorbachev, who is credited with forging a rapprochement with the West that led to the demise of communist regimes across Eastern Europe, accused the West, and the United States in particular, of not fulfilling their promises after 1989.
“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some say that it has already begun,” said Gorbachev, who is feted in Germany for his pivotal role in helping create the conditions for the Berlin Wall’s peaceful opening on Nov. 9, 1989, heralding the end of the Cold War.
“And yet, while the situation is dramatic, we do not see the main international body, the U.N. Security Council, playing any role or taking any concrete action.”
As Berliners watch 8,000 balloons being released into the night sky this evening, old divisions between east and west will symbolically vanish into thin air with them. Yet the runup to the festivities has already served up plenty of reminders that, 25 years after the fall of the wall that divided the city for three decades, the scars of history are hurting more than ever.
Speaking at a symposium near the Brandenburg Gate yesterday morning, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the world was “on the brink of a new cold war” and strongly criticised the west for having sown the seeds of the current crisis by mishandling the fallout from the collapse of the iron curtain.
“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security and pursuing a major demilitarisation of European politics … the west, and particularly the United States, declared victory in the cold war,” said the man behind the Soviet Union’s glasnost and perestroika reforms.
“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world.”
The enlargement of Nato, Kosovo, missile defence plans and wars in the Middle East had led to a “collapse of trust”, said Gorbachev, now 83. “To put it metaphorically, a blister has now turned into a bloody, festering wound.”
And even though Gorbachev has been outspoken against Putin before…
… Gorbachev backed the current Russian president’s stance over Ukraine, urging western leaders to “consider carefully” Putin’s recent remarks at the Valdai forum : “Despite the harshness of his criticism of the west, and of the United States in particular, I see in his speech a desire to find a way to lower tensions and ultimately to build a new basis for partnership.”
Such strong words of criticism, voiced by the man still affectionately known as “Gorbi” to many in Germany, came at the end of a week which has seen the value of the rouble tumbling dramatically as a result of western sanctions.
Speaking to CNN in Berlin, where he is attending anniversary celebrations, Gorbachev called for efforts to rebuild trust between East and West and for leaders to again work together for the common good.
“A lot depends on America, Europe, Russia — they have to work together more productively,” he said.
“We have to reestablish the cooperation and the trust that has been destroyed. We must start by dialogue — we must meet and not just talk past each other.”
Well, another group of people who are refusing to come together…have a dialogue and work something out…are the chief assholes at Dish Network and the folks at Turner.
CNN for decades has been considered a “must carry” network on cable and satellite carriers since the 1980s.
To Dish Network, that isn’t the case anymore. For the past two weeks, its 14 million subscribers (13 percent of CNN’s audience) hasn’t been able to watch the network, including Election night, when CNN usually pulls in big numbers. Seven other Turner networks, including Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and TruTV, are cut off as well because the two sides have not agreed to a deal. (Turner’s more popular TNT and TBS channels are part of a separate deal.)
“When we take something down, we’re prepared to leave it down forever,” Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said during an earnings call yesterday using unusually sharp words. “Things like CNN are not quite the product they used to be.”
He then mocked their Malaysian plane coverage; “Twenty years ago, CNN was a must-have channel, but it’s not a top 10 network anymore … unless they find the plane, the Malaysian plane,” Ergen added.
Typically, a cable or satellite provider pays certain fees to air cable networks. There are also issues now related to airing those networks in the digital space.
Okay, I will not take any points with the criticisms on CNN, y’all know my beef is with the blackout of TCM. But the thing that gets me is this little nugget of info, emphasis mine:
Turner responded: “We are disappointed in the aggressive nature of comments from the Dish Network, particularly given the fact that Dish agreed to our rates and carriage proposal weeks ago….While there were clearly deal points to get done, they were not the type you would usually go dark over. So it is still unclear to us exactly what this dispute is about.”
Excuse me? WTF? The bastards at Dish agreed to the terms already? But then poof, pffft….something happened and Dish fucks their customers by blacking out channels that those customers are STILL PAYING FOR!
Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen was vocal about the satellite giant’s on-going carriage dispute with Turner Broadcasting during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, saying he is prepared to keep the channels off the service permanently and slamming the performance of channels like CNN.
“When we do take something down, as a company, we’re prepared to leave it down forever,” he said.
Ergen…are you threatening me?
Cause that is what that sounds like…you are talking about the only reason I have your shitty ass service to begin with!
Dish’s removal of the Turner channels was perplexing, Martin said. Dish had all but agreed several weeks ago on a new deal — including fee increases — to carry the Turner channels, he said.
Martin said his company, during negotiations, had been agreeable to allowing Dish to package Turner channels in an Internet streaming service that Dish plans to launch by year’s end.
Now, however, such an arrangement is in doubt.
While there were some loose ends with the contract, Turner executives were under the impression the unresolved issues were not major sticking points.
“To us, it is unclear exactly what the dispute with Dish is,” Martin said.
Other major pay-TV companies had agreed to the same contract terms that Dish walked away from last month, Martin said.
Turner executives were particularly bewildered, Martin said, because Dish executives told them the channels were removed because Turner wouldn’t agree to extend the deadline for negotiations on a second contract.
That contract, which expires at the end of the year, covers the carriage of Turner’s largest channels TNT and TBS.
The dispute is not inconsequential. Dish has more than 14 million subscribers, making it one of the largest pay-TV providers in the country.
Wall Street analysts expressed concern the two sides may not be able to resolve their dispute.
Time Warner executives sought to calm investors.
“We still expect we’ll reach a deal,” Howard M. Averill, the company’s chief financial officer said. “We don’t expect this [dispute] is going to impact our long-term guidance.”
Ergen also took aim at the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner, saying that he’s “openly against” the two companies combining.
Even so, noting that Turner was an early partner with Dish, Ergen added, “I would bend over backwards for Turner, because they helped us get into” the business.
Discussing the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger, Ergen struck a far less conciliatory tone, saying that the merger would create an unhealthy amount of control in the hands of a single entity.
“You just don’t want one company to have that kind of power over the internet,” Ergen said. “That’s certainly something that would keep us up at night.”
I don’t know…but perhaps this blackout is all about a temper tantrum over the merger? Fuck you Ergen, you know what should be keeping you up at night? The big screw over you are giving your paying customers!
For those of you who are new to the blog, and came here looking for information about the Dish Network/Turner Classic Movies blackout…you can find more links about the dispute here:
Ergen’s “one channel is interchangeable with another” worldview was demonstrated within hours of the blackout when DISH began swapping out Turner networks for replacements with similar programming. TCM with replaced with FXM, formerly the Fox Movie Channel, an advertiser-supported network that programs recent film releases during half its programing day. Not long after I wrote an article condemning DISH for this bait-and-switch, the satcaster began simulcasting MGM HD in TCM’s stead. MGM, which also carries ads, may be a more appropriate substitute than FXM, but it still pales in comparison to TCM’s 24 hours per-day of commercial-free classics.
Oh yeah, you got that right Willie!
With an average subscriber fee of $1.33 (second only to ESPN), the loss of TNT alone from 14.1 million homes would have a impact on Turner’s bottom line, both in affiliate fees and ad revenue. When you add TBS and the other Turner networks, the stakes increase. To put the current dispute in perspective, all eight of the currently blacked-out channels on DISH (excluding TNT and TBS) cost subscribers on average $1.57 per month combined, which equates to only pennies per month, per subscriber for TCM. Think about that the next time you pay a gigantic cable bill strictly because you want to keep watching TCM.
Lost in the gamesmanship and focus on the bottom line is the importance TCM plays in the lives of many of its viewers – this one included. Ergen may dismiss it as “easy to take down” and replaceable with other channels, but reader feedback I’ve received tells a very different story.
Go and check out Will McKinley’s blog to read the comments. Y’all know what my state of depression has gotten down too…without TCM I am lost.
CBS Corp and Dish Network Corp are far apart on talks for a new distribution deal, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, setting up the possibility that the satellite provider’s subscribers could lose access to the most-watched U.S. TV network next month.
The current agreement, signed on January 5, 2012, is set to expire in late November, according to the person. The two sides continue to talk.
CBS and Dish are at odds over the monthly price per subscriber the satellite operator, which has 14 million subscribers, would pay to carry CBS.
According to media consultant SNL Kagan, CBS’s TV stations were averaging 54 cents per subscriber from TV distributors when the Dish deal was signed in 2012. CBS currently averages 89 cents but recent deals have been richer, according to SNL senior research analyst Justin Nielson.
The standoff comes as cable, satellite and telecom video distributors increasingly are playing hard ball with program providers, resisting demands for steep price increases at a time when viewers are being drawn to Netflix and other forms of entertainment.
It is enough to make me want to put up a wall around the TCM headquarters/archives and set up a little commune for all of the Dish’s TCM refugees….
We could turn it into our own little classic movie city…
Who is ready to join me?
Y’all keep up with the weather conditions in your area this coming week!
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It is all I can do to get myself out of bed lately, sleep is the thing that seems to hold me down. This is worse than usual. Yesterday Boston Boomer titled her post Extra Lazy…no way.
But the inability to lift my fat ass from the mattress of late does not owe itself to “laziness” or the fact that I am still recovering from one of the worst bouts of bronchitis…it is due to DISH induced depression.
Yes! That is it! That has to be the only explanation, because I cannot tell you just how upsetting this whole TCM blackout has been for me. This week alone I’ve missed The Innocents, The Woman in White (which is the one that hurts the most) and tonight’s Diabolique .
The thought of this ongoing DISH disaster really does have me screaming in agony and disgust…that is, when I am not in bed sulking.
So, any lawyers out there? Tell me. Can I sue Dish for causing my depression to become overwhelming and my general mental health to deteriorate? Fuckitall.
Today’s post is the way it is…not because of laziness. Nope.
It is the way it is because of lack of giving a shit about anything else, because the Basturds at Dish Network have made it impossible for me to think about anything but Eleanor Parker appearing in the shadows as a ghostly figure dressed in white.
So, the links are out-of-order and all over the place. The images are varied and generally photos from Hollywood Horror flicks…with a few behind the scenes shots.
The extent of Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza’s growing rage, isolation and delusions when he was a teenager were apparently overlooked by his mother, psychiatrists and counselors, according to a report expected to be issued next month.
The report found that Lanza, who gunned down 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly two years ago, did not have to become a violent adult, Scott Jackson, chairman of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, said on Friday.
Say that again…
It says better screening and evaluation might have helped detect earlier the 20-year-old’s potential for violence.
We’ll definitely talk more about that later on next month…
Personally, I would have edited the thing to get rid of the little words, but I guess that is the whole point.
Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass has a reputation for championing the individual (“I am large, I contain multitudes”), so it’s surprising that the most frequently used word in the poem — “all” — applies to the collective or universal.
A word cloud generated on WordItOut.com shows that “one,” “body,” “old,” “new” and “man” — words more adherent to the contemporary conception of Whitman — are also among his favorites. The unexpected appearance of “all” reveals the less readily clear heart of the poem: that all individuals are connected by their primal, natural desires, and that upholding the importance of the individual simultaneously romanticizes the universal.
In a way, the visualization of Whitman’s language can serve as a map to understanding the underlying emotions his work is meant to evoke. “All” is a nexus around which more specific details (“sea,” “land,” “war,” “words,” “woman”) float.
Interactive: The state of same-sex marriage in the US
Same-sex married couples in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming will now qualify for Social Security benefits and other types of social insurance typically reserved for married couples.
“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans,” said Holder in a Justice Department statement.
“We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.” he added.
“The fact that women in North Carolina still get paid less than men for the same work costs those women and their families thousands of dollars every year. Imagine what a working mom could do with the money she is owed, the better home she could rent or even buy?” she said. “This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, a fairness issue.”
“Women’s rights are the canary in the mine. If you don’t protect women’s rights here at home and around the world, everybody’s rights are lost,” she said. “You have to ask yourself, do you want a senator who will always defend a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions and won’t ever shame or judge a woman for decisions that are complex and deeply personal, or do you want a senator who will push so-called ‘personhood’ laws that would outlaw common forms of birth control and ban abortions even in cases of rape or incest?”
On Monday, Oct. 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 to endorse the Arizona House Bill 2625, which would allow Arizona employers to repudiate health insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious affirmations.
This would give Arizona businesses license to request that female personnel being prescribed birth control pills verify they’re using them for intentions that are non-sexual or non-reproductive, such as acne treatment or hormone control.
“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union,” said Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, who penned the bill. Lesko also stated that said bill corresponds with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was endorsed March 2010. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”
However, many people, like Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard, say the Arizona House Bill 2625 would intrude on women’s rights in regards to preserving the confidentiality of their medical records. Howard also noted that zero grievances have been filed by insurance companies since 2002 when Arizona passed the Contraceptive Equity Law, which barred religious establishments from refusing its personnel contraceptives for non-sexual or non-reproductive reasons.
…abortion opponents here who believe that Tennessee has for too long been a Bible Belt outlier due to a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that ruled that the state’s constitutional guarantee of a right to privacy includes the right to an abortion. Over the years, the ruling has served as a partial bulwark against the wave of abortion restrictions that have swept other conservatives states.
Now, anti-abortion forces are trying to change that at the ballot box by passing Amendment 1, which states that nothing in the Tennessee Constitution “secures or protects” a right to abortion.
Two other states, Colorado and North Dakota, are also trying to restrict abortion this Election Day with so called “personhood” ballot measures, which would extend extra rights and protections to the unborn. Colorado has previously voted twice against versions of the measure.
Here in Tennessee the ballot fight has taken center stage this political season, and abortion opponents are buoyed by the Democratic Party’s comically poor chances of recapturing the governor’s mansion. The party’s challenger to incumbent Bill Haslam, a Republican, is Charles V. Brown, a retired construction worker and political neophyte best known for his suggestion that Mr. Haslam be strapped to an electric chair.
“When there’s no real candidate to vote for, it’s hard,” said Rebecca Terrell, the executive director of Choices, a clinic in Memphis that offers abortions, in acknowledging that abortion rights forces face a hard time getting out the liberal vote.
The Supreme Court of the John Roberts era gets one thing very right: It’s one of the most free-speech-protective courts in modern history. There is no purveyor of semi-pornographic crush videos, no maker of rape-aspiring violent video games, no homophobic funeral protester, no anti-abortion clinic counselor, and no filthy-rich campaign contribution–seeker whose rights and privileges will not be treated by the court with the utmost reverence and solicitude.
This is important and vital, and one doesn’t want to slag the court for the boundless attention and care it lavishes upon the most obnoxious speakers in America. After all, the First Amendment is kind of the constitutional gateway drug, the portal to the rest of the Bill of Rights. And without securing meaningful protection for the rights to speak, assemble, worship, and publish, so many of our other rights might be illusory. Great. Stipulated.
That makes it extra weird whenever the assorted (lets call them largely “conservative”) justices of the Roberts court, and judges on lower courts across the land, turn their attention to the protection of other rights—equally crucial but perhaps less sexy—like, say, the right to vote or to obtain an abortion. That’s when the nameless, faceless rights seekers all blur into oblivion, a great unwashed mass of undifferentiated shadow people. And that is when some judges find it all too simple to bat these rights away with a stroke of the pen.
In the past few weeks, it’s been astonishing to contrast the regard afforded to individual speech rights with the cavalier dismissal of other, equally precious hallmarks of democracy.
Oh yeah, sing it sister. You go and read the rest of Dahlia Lithwick’s article at the link.
Researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland say that if you could take a whiff of the cloud of gas surrounding the icy nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko you would smell a pungent mix of hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs); ammonia (horse stable); and formaldehyde.
There would also be a hint of the smell when a match is struck (sulfur dioxide) and a whiff of alcohol (methanol). Carbon disulfide would add just a touch of sweetness, the scientists say.
You could write a history of the world just by looking at the words that got into the dictionary, and disappeared from it. You would of course have your great scientific advances: oxygen, aeroplane, penicillin, and boob job. But politics would play its part, for it was the world of politics that gave us Cold War, glasnost, ayatollah and suicide bomber. New habits make themselves known through phrases like sofa-surfing and texting. And art and music can be seen with the arrival of impressionism, ragtime, heavy metal, hip-hop, and emo. New social types arrive. Before the 1980s there was no such thing as a Sloane Ranger or a yuppie (from “Young Urban Professional”). And the 1990s gave us Britpop and ethniccleansing.
Sometimes these words merely involve a new label applied to something that already exists. The teenager was never heard of before 1942. This doesn’t mean that the ages thirteen to nineteen didn’t exist before then. It was merely that they weren’t considered that important. You were a child and then you were a young man or woman. You played with toys, then you put those toys away and got yourself a job. The teenage phenomenon could only start when the teenagers were separated out by language. They were given a name and with it they were given an identity and very soon they were able to listen to teenage music, dress in teenage fashions, and do teenage things like dancing and sulking.
If you’re not familiar with the name Alan Turing, the chances are that you soon will be with the release of the new film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the starring role. Alan Turing holds a unique place in history as being someone who not only one of the greatest minds in history who helped save his country and the free world in WW2 but one whose personal life was mired in secrecy which led to a terrible end for him and a shame to his country and a loss to the world.
There was a time, not too long ago, when any mainstream politician running for statewide or national office in Florida had to rattle off fiery rhetoric against the Cuban government and declare unquestioning faith that the embargo on the island would one day force the Castros from power.
For generations, among Cuban-Americans, once a largely monolithic voting bloc, the embargo was a symbol of defiance in exile — more gospel than policy.
That has changed dramatically in recent years as younger members of the diaspora have staked out views that are increasingly in favor of deepening engagement with the island. Cuba still looms large in Florida politics, and to an extent nationally. But it is far from the clear-cut issue it once was.
A Gary, Indiana man shot and killed a 13-year-old neighbor boy for laughing at him on Friday night.
According to the Gary Post-Tribune, police have not released the shooter’s name, but said that he shot Kobe Jones, 13, nine times. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:31 p.m. on Friday by the Lake County Coroner’s office.
Gary Police Lt. Thomas Pawlak told the Post-Tribune that the gunman’s home was broken into and robbed some time on Friday afternoon. The man arrived home around 5:00 p.m. and discovered the robbery and flew into a rage.
As he was having a noisy tantrum in his back yard, a crowd of neighborhood residents gathered. Jones made the mistake of laughing at his neighbor’s histrionics, which drove the man to even greater heights of rage.
He produced a gun and shot Jones nine times, killing him. The shooter and his girlfriend fled the scene in a car, but returned at around 7:00 p.m. and surrendered to police.
They are both currently being held at Gary City Jail. Charges are reportedly pending.
53-year-old Mark McDaniel. He was convicted in 2004 for aggravated child molestation. Prosecutors say he molested an 8-year-old child — forcing oral sex. June was dating McDaniel at the same time he molested the child.
McDaniel served 10 years and was released this past March. He is now a registered sex offender in the state of Georgia.
The show has since been cancelled. Turns out the 8-year-old was that shitass Mama June bitch’s little girl…
In the wake of the cancellation news, June took to Facebook on Friday to deny the reports that she is romantically involved with the registered sex offender.
“The statement of me dating a sex offender is untrue,” she said to the camera in what she described as a “truth video.”
“I would not ever ever put my kids in danger I love my kids too much,” she continued. That is my past. I have not seen that person in 10 years.”
Despite her denials, new photos of June and McDaniel continue to emerge. TMZ published pictures of the two house-hunting in Georgia on Saturday, including one photo of the two appearing to hold hands. The site reports that the photos were taken last month.
Now the reason I post all this Boo Boo Reality crap is so that this next link makes sense:
Saying that he didn’t “give two shits” if they had to knock on the door of every trailer and halfway house in the country, TLC producer and programming director Mark Livingston reportedly told his staffers Friday that he expects to see a list of at least 100 fucked-up families on his desk by the end of the workday. “We’re up shit creek right now, so I need each one of you assholes rooting through every gutter in the goddamn Ozarks to find me a household of inbreds, addicts, or fat-as-fuck morons that we can put in primetime,” a visibly aggravated Livingston said to his staff following the cancellation of the network’s popular Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, stressing that the new families had better be “borderline brain-dead” and “messed up as all fuck.” “If they have 20 dipshit kids, that’s great. If they only have one greasy dimwit kid who can barely string a sentence together, that’ll work too. Hell, you get me some snarl-toothed family of backwoods idiots who all call their dad Papa Pig or some shit like that, and I’ll sign them immediately. Just find me some family of sewer people I can throw in front of the goddamn camera, got it?” At press time, Livingston was angrily telling his staffers that they could all find a new job wiping asses at the Disney Channel if they brought him one more suggestion for a morbidly obese teen mother.
Frank Mankiewicz, the press secretary who went before television cameras to announce the death of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and later served as political director for presidential candidate George McGovern, died Thursday. He was 90.
Mankiewicz died of a heart attack at George Washington University Hospital, said a family friend, journalist Adam Clymer.
Mankiewicz was a longtime Democratic political operative as well as a lawyer, journalist and author. McGovern once recalled his former campaign aide as a perceptive, straightforward political adviser.
“I never got any bad advice from Frank,” said McGovern, a senator from South Dakota who was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972. “I found him just fascinating to travel with during the campaign. I picked up a lot of perspective, a lot of insights and a lot of humor from Frank.”
The son and nephew of Hollywood filmmakers, Mankiewicz studied journalism and law. He worked for newspapers in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles before assuming the role of President John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps director in Lima, Peru, in 1962 and later was a regional director in Washington. In 1966, he became press secretary to Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., who was assassinated two years later while campaigning for the party’s presidential nomination.
In June 1968, Kennedy had just won the California primary and finished his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Mankiewicz left the entourage for a moment to help the candidate’s wife, Ethel, step off a platform.
“She was at the time three months pregnant, although I don’t think anybody knew it, except the inside group,” Mankiewicz recalled on the 30th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. “We helped her down. And then she said, ‘Go on,’ and we started to move off quickly to catch up. And that’s when we heard the shots.”
A scion of Hollywood, the son of Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote “Citizen Kane,” and the nephew of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed “All About Eve,” Mr. Mankiewicz grew up with an Algonquin West round table in his Beverly Hills home, regaled by movie stars and famous writers.
He became a journalist and lawyer and, inspired by the Kennedys, went to Washington at the dawn of the New Frontier and took an executive position at the Peace Corps, full of idealistic hopes. What he encountered were assassinations, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandals.
Frank Fabian Mankiewicz was born in Manhattan on May 16, 1924, one of three children of Herman and Sara Aaronson Mankiewicz. His father, early on a drama critic for The New York Times and The New Yorker, began his celebrated Hollywood career in 1926. The household was awhirl with the famous: Regulars included F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, James Thurber, Margaret Sullavan, Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.
“They got serious about things that didn’t matter to me, such as clothes and how much money you made,” Mr. Mankiewicz said of his parents in a People magazine interview in 1982. “That kept me out of the movie business.”
He attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania for a year, then joined the Army infantry in World War II and saw combat at the Battle of the Bulge. After the war he resumed his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating in 1947, then earned a master’s degree in journalism the next year from Columbia University and found newspaper work in the Los Angeles area.
Mr. Mankiewicz married Holly Jolley in 1952 and had two sons with her. The marriage ended in divorce. In 1988, he married the novelist Patricia O’Brien.
Ms. O’Brien survives him, as do his sons, Joshua, a correspondent for NBC News, and Benjamin, a host of Turner Classic Movies; an older brother, Donald Mankiewicz, a novelist and screenwriter; four stepdaughters, Marianna, Margaret and Maureen Koval and Monica Krider; a 1-year-old granddaughter; and eight stepgrandchildren.
Round this post off with a grouping of movie links:
Hullabaloo-Saturday Night at the MoviesFright night at the art house: A top 10 list By Dennis Hartley
I have some serious news reads for you this morning, but–just because it’s a feel-good story–I’m going to begin with one more Market Basket update. The Boston Globe published an article yesterday about the Market Basket store I shop at in, in Burlington, MA: A Market Basket store, returning to life. Recall that the shelves were mostly empty when the employees returned to work on Thursday morning.
The doors of the tractor-trailer open on a bounty of chicken, Swiss cheese, and sliced onions.
A swarm of grocery clerks in blue jackets and managers in red descends on the loading dock, using hand-operated electric jacks to spear pallets of food that the workers stack in the cavernous storage rooms in the back of the Market Basket supermarket….
Bob McKeown fills a display case with fresh-from-the-fryer doughnuts, a few garnished with smiley faces made of jelly. Samantha Bond decorates a cake to honor the moment, etching the words “Market Basket Strong” in icing and an image of the yellow giraffe that served as the employees’ mascot of sorts during the protest — for “sticking their necks out.” ….
This Market Basket store in Burlington came back to life over the last few days, resuscitated by a cadre of employees eager to get to work after the six-week protest that forced the return of Arthur T. Demoulas as head of the family food empire. Like the others in the 71-store chain, the Burlington store was the scene of a rapid restocking, a huge task involving thousands of pounds of produce, meat, bread, canned goods, and other groceries….
The first morning back had been about congratulations and hugs and handshakes as customers came in more to talk to employees than to shop. Amid the celebrations, workers admitted to anxious moments during the stoppage. They worried their defiance would cost them their jobs — “I’ve been living on antacids for the last six weeks,” one said — and couldn’t wait to get back to the unglamorous but satisfying routine of running a supermarket.
That routine had returned in full by early Friday.
It’s a nice story, and I’m so happy for these workers. Isn’t it great that this happened over Labor Day weekend?
The U.S. military launched an airstrike in Somalia on Monday targeting the leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated group behind the Kenya mall massacre. U.S. officials told NBC News that a military drone launched Hellfire missiles at at least two vehicles in a remote area of southern Somalia. Sources said Ahmed Abdi Godane, the top leader of al Shabab, was the attack’s target. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for last September’s Westgate Mall siege that left at least 67 dead and around 200 injured. One U.S. security source described Godane as “operationally savvy and ideologically driven, with aspirations off the charts.”
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said in a statement late Monday that “we are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.” Godane has served as the group’s leader since a U.S. airstrike killed his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro in 2008. In October, U.S. commandos launched raids in Somalia seeking to capture Godane, who is also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr. Reuters reported that Godane’s close associate, Ahmed Mohamed Amey, was killed by a U.S. airstrike in January. In an online audio message following the Westgate Mall massacre, Godane said Kenya should be “prepared for an abundance of blood that will be spilt in your country.” Al Shabab, which means “The Youth” in Arabic, seized much of southern Somalia in 2006 before Somali forces and African peacekeeping troops ousted it five years later.
Al-Shabab, or “The Youth,” is an al-Qaeda-linked militant group and U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization fighting for the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia. The group, also known as Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, and its Islamist affiliates once held sway over Mogadishu and major portions of the Somali countryside, but a sustained African Union military campaign in recent years has weakened the group considerably. Still, security analysts warn that the group remains the principal threat in a politically volatile, war-torn state.
Al-Shabab’s terrorist activities have mainly focused on targets within Somalia, but it has also proven an ability to carry out deadly strikes in the region, including coordinated suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital in 2010 and a deadly raid on a Nairobi mall in 2013. Washington fears the group, which has successfully recruited members of the Somali-American diaspora, may orchestrate strikes on U.S. soil. In recent years, the United States has pursued a two-pronged policy in Somalia: providing funding, training, and logistical support to UN-backed African forces battling al-Shabab, while escalating counterterrorism operations including Special Forces and armed drones….
Somalia, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, has seen a number of radical Islamist groups come and go in its decades-long political tumult. The group analysts cite as al-Shabab’s precursor, and the incubator for many of its leaders, is Al-Ittihad Al-Islami (aka Unity of Islam), a militant Salafi extremist group that peaked in the 1990s after the fall of the Siad Barre military regime (1969-1991) and the outbreak of civil war.
AIAI, which sought to establish an Islamist emirate in Somalia, sprang from a band of Middle Eastern-educated Somali extremists and was partly funded and armed by al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Many of its fighters, including current al-Shabab commanders, fled the country and fought in Afghanistan in the late 1990s after being pushed out by the Ethiopian army and its Somali supporters. The group was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In 2003, a rift developed between AIAI’s old guard, which had decided to create a new political front, and youth members who sought the establishment of a “Greater Somalia” under fundamental Islamic rule. The hardliners eventually joined forces with an alliance of sharia courts, known as the Islamic Courts Union, serving as its youth militia in the battle to conquer Mogadishu’s rivaling warlords. Al-Shabab and the ICU wrested control of the capital in June 2006, a victory that stoked fears of spillover jihadist violence in neighboring Ethiopia, a majority Christian nation.
President Barack Obama authorized the new military action, broadening U.S. operations in Iraq amid an international outcry over the threat to Amerli’s mostly ethnic Turkmen population.
U.S. aircraft delivered over a hundred bundles of emergency supplies and more aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes, officials said, signaling headway in Obama’s efforts to draw allies into the fight against Islamic State.
Iraqi army and Kurdish forces closed in on Islamic State fighters on Saturday in a push to break the Sunni militants’ siege of Amerli, which has been surrounded by the militants for more than two months.
Armed residents of Amerli have managed to fend off attacks by Islamic State fighters, who regard the town’s majority Shi’ite Turkmen population as apostates. More than 15,000 people remain trapped inside.
“At the request of the government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shia Turkmen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said, using an alternative name for Islamic State.
“In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated air strikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation,” he said, adding that a key objective was to prevent a militant attack on civilians in the town.
President Obama leaves for Europe Tuesday with stops in Estonia and a NATO summit in Wales amid escalating crises in Ukraine and in Iraq and Syria, crises that are having a direct impact on a number of European nations.
While the Russian threat in Ukraine will be the focus of the upcoming summit, the meeting also puts President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel face to face with European countries who may be willing to join the U.S. in dealing with the other crisis in Iraq and Syria.
Officially, however, NATO says it doesn’t want to be involved in dealing with the Islamic militant group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that has swept across Iraq and Syria and poses a growing threat to the U.S. and parts of Western Europe that might be targeted by foreign fighters.
Why is Obama stopping in Estonia?
“It is clearly not accidental that the president has decided to stop in Estonia on the way to the NATO Summit. The two stops are essentially part of the same effort to send a message to the Russians that their behavior is unacceptable,” said Charles Kupchan, the White House’s senior director for European Affairs.
Estonia, like Ukraine, has a large Russian population and is concerned about the potential of pro-Russian unrest there too. But Kupchan said Mr. Obama will send the message that the Article 5 commitment to common defense of other nations is ironclad.
“Russia, don’t even think about messing around in Estonia or in any of the Baltic areas in the same way you have been messing around in Ukraine,” Kupchan said the president would relay to allies there.
Mr. Obama will meet with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and also speak to young people there.
Read more details about the NATO Summit at the link.
MOSCOW — With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for “changing military dangers and military threats.”
In an interview with the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the official, Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s military Security Council, called the expansion of NATO “one of the leading military dangers for the Russian Federation.”
Mr. Popov said Russia expected that leaders of NATO would seek to strengthen the alliance’s long-term military presence in Eastern Europe by establishing new military bases in the region and by deploying tanks in Estonia, a member of NATO that borders Russia.
“We believe that the defining factor in our relationship with NATO remains the unacceptability for Russia of plans to move military infrastructures of the alliance to our borders, including by means of expanding the bloc,” Mr. Popov said.
ROTHERHAM, England — It started on the bumper cars in the children’s arcade of the local shopping mall. Lucy was 12, and a group of teenage boys, handsome and flirtatious, treated her and her friends to free rides and ice cream after school.
Over time, older men were introduced to the girls, while the boys faded away. Soon they were getting rides in real cars, and were offered vodka and marijuana. One man in particular, a Pakistani twice her age and the leader of the group, flattered her and bought her drinks and even a mobile phone. Lucy liked him.
The rapes started gradually, once a week, then every day: by the war memorial in Clifton Park, in an alley near the bus station, in countless taxis and, once, in an apartment where she was locked naked in a room and had to service half a dozen men lined up outside.
She obliged. How could she not? They knew where she lived. “If you don’t come back, we will rape your mother and make you watch,” they would say.
At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.
But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.
“All of them?” she remembers asking. A check was mailed, 140 pounds, or $232, for loss of property, and the family was discouraged from pressing charges. It was the girl’s word against that of the men. The case was closed.
God, what a horrible story! Here’s a related post at The Daily Beast, The Psychology of Sex Slave Rings, by Charlotte Lytton. Lytton asks a controversial question, “are grooming rings endemic within certain cultures?”
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will join investment bank Moelis & Co as vice chairman and managing director, the company said, adding that Cantor will also be elected to its board….
“Eric has proven himself to be a pro-business advocate and one who will enhance our boardroom discussions with CEOs and senior management as we help them navigate their most important strategic decisions,” Moelis CEO Ken Moelis said in a statement.
The apparent (but not finalized) decision by the White House to push executive action on immigration reform past the November midterms means there is no forcing mechanism to create a shutdown fight when government funding runs out Sept. 30th. Qorvis’ Stan Collender, a top budget expert, emails: “I never thought a shutdown was likely this fall (next March is another issue), but in a rational world delaying action on immigration should kill any chance of one happening. Then again — Benghazi, Obamacare, etc”
So, those are this morning’s breaking news headlines. What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!
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For the longest time, Fox News hosts throughout the broadcast day were crushing badly for Pooty-Poot and his hairless man-rack. But when protests in Ukraine disintegrated into a not-so-subtle Russian incursion and attempted annexation of the country, Fox News kept its unrequited passion to itself — not knowing whether its audience would regard Putin as a hero or a throwback Soviet-era invader.
And then a Malaysia Airlines flight was blown out of the sky, most likely using a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air launcher. If, in the aftermath of that tragedy, Fox News hosts were still carrying a torch for Putin, you’d have to read very carefully to find any signs of love. Mostly, the network was unwilling to directly blame Putin, referring to the missile launch as coming from pro-Russia rebels inside Ukraine.
That was July — just over a month ago. A lifetime in modern news media time, and even longer in internet time.
But on Wednesday, Fox News reignited its affection for Putin — and, incongruously, on the same day when the Pentagon appears to have confirmed Russian forces and a Russian missile launch inside Ukraine. On “The Five,” and following a monologue about ISIS by talking troll Greg Gutfeld, panelist Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested that Putin take over the United States for 48 hours.
“Can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu, or like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States?”
Can I make a quick observation? What the fuck is wrong with these people. Bob Cesca continues,
There’s no gray area there. Putin for (Temporary) President. Guilfoyle’s 48 hour term is more than enough time for Putin to shoot down a few more passenger airliners; invite the Russian military into one or more states; imprison at least several thousand gay people; seize control of the internet; censor journalism; dissolve PBS and replace it with RT.
Vladimir Putin, a foreign-born former KGB agent operating under the pre-1990 communist Soviet regime, is Fox News Channel’s magic bullet for solving America’s problems. The same network that literally branded patriotism told us that Putin should take over the country for a while. The network that’s encouraging Speaker Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama for his alleged abuse of executive power thinks despotic Putin would be a better alternative. Wrap your head around that one. Executive overreach is impeachable, but let’s bring in Vladimir Putin to fix things. I’m sure he’d totally get congressional permission for everything.
By the way, Fox News wouldn’t have mentioned such an idea without knowing full well that Fox News loyalists would suck it down like water — viewers who only know that Putin is “tough,” without knowing what treachery is associated with that toughness. Oh, and they also know he hates the gays. I suppose that alone is enough to sell them on Putin.
The myth that seems to have permeated the far-right is that being a badass is the end-all of leadership, irrespective of who or what is on the receiving end of that badassery. But they can count on one thing: Putin will spend his two days as President of the United States doing a hell of a lot more than signing a stack of executive orders. One of his actions would surely be to indefinitely extend his 48 hour term. And that’d be the least objectionable thing.
Wow, the shit these people say is unfuckingbelievable! What gets me confused is how these right-wing politicians that go on Fox News…who are so anti-communist, can promote these statements.
“You can’t dance around it,” Carson told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris. “If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they’d have to agree. Most people in Germany didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing…Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in.”
You may remember the other comparisons to Nazi Germany Carson has made earlier this year.
In February Carson suggested that liberals could turn the country into Nazi Germany.
“There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up,” he said according to The Huffington Post. “Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But what did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in/ They did not, and you saw what happened.”
A month later, Carson went there again, saying that American society today is very similar to Nazi Germany.
“I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany,” the retired neurosurgeon said in an interview with Breitbart News. “And I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don’t care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
He went on to list the “PC police” politicians and news that, together, “stifle people’s conversation.”
“The reason that is so horrible is because the only way that you have harmon and reach consensus is by talking. But if, in fact, people are afraid to talk, you never reach consensus,” Carson said. “And instead you grow further and further apart. And that’s exactly what’s happening, creating a horrible schism that will destroy our nation if we don’t fix it.”
Participants perform during the Spasskaya Tower international military and music Festival on Red Square in Moscow on August 30, 2014. The festival itself will be held from August 30, to September 7. AFP PHOTO/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Speaking of such things, I happened to visit Gettysburg last week. I had a great time. It was super cool to visit the key spots of the battle, try to imagine all the dead on the huge field that the location of Pickett’s Charge, below Little Round Top, and around the battlefield. Much credit goes to the National Park Service for not only emphasizing slavery as the core reason of the war but for enforcing that interpretation. What do I mean by that? For a very long time, the main attraction at the Gettysburg Visitor Center was the cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge. A cyclorama was a Gilded Age entertainment that tried to bring a scene to life through a 360-degree painting. These were a huge hit in France and were imported to the U.S. A cyclorama painter was hired to do one of Pickett’s Charge and people love it. It was a huge reason why people went to the site. You can still see it today and it’s OK. It’s cool as a Gilded Age relic. As something of value outside of that, it’s pretty silly, what with the sound and light show that goes along with it.
Now in order to see the cyclorama, you have to sit through the 15 minute film intrepreting the battle for you. Morgan Freeman narrates the video and it says in no uncertain terms that slavery was the cause of the war, which is great. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who hate that (one of the first people I saw there was a guy wearing a Stonewall Jackson t-shirt, which in my world is like wearing a Himmler t-shirt), but it was very well done, really expressing the complexity of the situation too. I also discovered that I find discussion of military maneuvers so incredibly boring that even Morgan Freeman can’t make me care. Anyway, the exhibits in the Visitor Center are good throughout, combining the old guns that are crack for American white men who like to wear camo as casual wear with real historical interpretation.
I don’t think I would compare Stonewall Jackson to Himmler, read the comments on the LG&M post to get more thoughts on that, but the obvious use of the shirt to prove that the wearer was a redneck asshole…that I could agree with wholeheartedly.
On Friday we had to drive down to Atlanta, and I thought about the Civil War…like I usually do while on the roads around Georgia.
Let me explain. When you drive South from Banjoville to Atlanta and pass each exit along I75, exits with names that you remember from key battles in the Atlanta Campaign. As you pass these battlefields of a war that took place one hundred and fifty years ago it makes you think about what that war was all about….and just how far we have come.
Collective amnesia about past eruptions of racial conflict has left Americans with a false sense that what happened in Ferguson is somehow new. But the only thing new is the technology. The attitudes on display are sadly familiar.Forty-seven years ago, the African-American population of New Jersey’s largest city took to the streets after a violent encounter between white police officers and an unarmed black man. While the body count in Newark—26 people dead and 1,500 injured—was far greater than in the recent disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, the parallels between the two tragedies are too clear to be ignored.
We’re all supposed to be impressed with the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder parachuted into Ferguson MO the other day to wrap his arms around the local top black cop and get briefed on the pending federal investigation into the police killing of Michael Brown. But we shouldn’t be.
For the last 20 years, since 1994, Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act obligates the Department of Justice to collect statistics on the extent of brutality and excessive force used by police officers, and to make those findings available to the public. 20 years down the road no such stats exist, because the Justice Departments of the Clinton, the Bush and the Obama administrations have all simply ignored the law and refuse even to try to gather the information. Let me say this again: the Clinton Justice Department defied the law and refused to gather national stats on police misconduct. The Bush Justice Department thumbed its nose at the law and also refused to gather national stats on police misconduct, and now the first black attorney general, who sometimes even utters the phrase “mass incarceration”, which he recently discovered, selected by the first black president who says if he had a son, his son could be Trayvon Martin – Eric Holder and Barack Obama have likewise shown no interest whatsoever in fulfilling their legal duty when it comes to assembling a national database of police misconduct.
This should not surprise the president’s apologists, who will surely counsel us that he has to be president of all the people, including the police. Everybody knows black and brown people are the disproportionate targets of police violence, so enforcing laws which particularly benefit black and brown communities are something we must not expect. Perhaps after the president leaves office, they’ll tell us, he’ll speak out more forcefully on this. Maybe the “My Brothers Keeper” initiative can get some charitable dollars to organizations like , or PUSH or the Urban League to help more of our young boys to pull their pants up so they won’t get beat down.
Let’s get real. The Republicans haven’t stopped Obama and Holder from doing this, they stopped themselves. Like every cop on the beat, the Obama administration chooses which laws to enforce, which ones to bend and in what direction, and which ones to ignore. Obama’s DOJ has resurrected the century old Espionage Act, not to prosecute spies, but to threaten and to imprison whistleblowers who tell the truth to reporters, and to journalists themselves if they do not reveal their sources with decades in prison, like Chelsea Manning, and on so-called “secret evidence.” So when you think about it, it’s entirely logical that a president and attorney general who place such a high priority on protecting their torturers, their bankster friends, and the official wrongdoers of past and future administrations should want to protect the police from scrutiny as well.
It’s time to shed some illusions, not just about this president but about the whole political class that claims he or any president can be “held accountable.” Barack Obama and his Justice Department are no more interested in justice than the administrations of ten presidents before him, and uncritical black and brown support has made this president less accountable to black and brown people than any in living memory.
I had to quote that op/ed in full because it seemed so powerful, and so telling of the point I was trying to make. One hundred and fifty years, even with a black president, where have we come to? Those Newark riots where almost fifty years ago…Civil Rights Act…fifty years ago too. And still the question I keep repeating, where have we come to…progress? Perhaps, compared to slavery. But from my view, living in a redneck Southern town, the hate is thick and packs a powerful punch in the gut to hear it practiced out-loud, so nonchalant…
Anyway, I am rambling. It is 4:13 am and I will move on.
Federal investigators are focused on one Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, but at least five other police officers and one former officer in the town’s 53-member department have been named in civil rights lawsuits alleging the use of excessive force.
In four federal lawsuits, including one that is on appeal, and more than a half-dozen investigations over the past decade, colleagues of Darren Wilson’s have separately contested a variety of allegations, including killing a mentally ill man with a Taser, pistol-whipping a child, choking and hog-tying a child and beating a man who was later charged with destroying city property because his blood spilled on officers’ clothes.
One officer has faced three internal affairs probes and two lawsuits over claims he violated civil rights and used excessive force while working at a previous police department in the mid-2000s. That department demoted him after finding credible evidence to support one of the complaints, and he subsequently was hired by the Ferguson force.
Police officials from outside Ferguson and plaintiffs’ lawyers say the nature of such cases suggests there is a systemic problem within the Ferguson police force. Department of Justice officials said they are considering a broader probe into whether there is a pattern of using excessive force that routinely violates people’s civil rights.
In all but one of the cases, the victims were black. Among the officers involved in the cases, one is African American.
Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw has been arrested for raping or sexually abusing eight different women, all of whom are African-American, under the threat that he would arrest them if they did not comply.
A Cleveland police officer got in trouble this week; not for shooting anyone, not for any shocking assault video, but for actually being a bro. This cop was caught on camera holding up a beer bong so a Browns tailgater could use it properly.
Here’s the picture in question:
Seriously, that looks more like a PR photo to me.
This post is getting long, so quickly…here are the rest of today’s links:
Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg
Let me get this straight. Violently assaulting a woman equates to a two game suspension, but failing a drug test amounts to an entire year on the bench?
No matter where your moral compass stands on smoking pot, I think we can all agree that beating your girlfriend up so badly she is hospitalized with 18 broken bones in the face, a broken nose, a cracked rib and a ruptured liver is a far worse crime.
We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.
Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg
In addition to admitting fault, Goodell has, effective immediately, instituted a revamped domestic violence policy which punishes first time offenders with a six game suspension and second time offenders with a ban from the NFL for at least a year, after which an individual can petition for reinstatement.
People showed up and plopped down lawn chairs, sitting there just so they could feel like a part of the event, even if they could not see anything. The neighborhood’s residents were glad for their team, for their boys and for themselves. They brought cakes. They rode bikes. They hugged.
This was a homey neighborhood celebration on the city’s South Side, a departure for an area known for gun violence.
Chicago finally had its chance on Wednesday to welcome home the Jackie Robinson West Little League team that won the United States championship on Saturday. The rolling celebration started with a rally at the team’s home park and worked its way into the city center. Residents lined up for 70 blocks along Halsted Street, waiting for their heroes.
It was the kind of celebration you would expect in small-town America. As politicians lined up to talk with a few thousand fans at a rally on the team’s field, the parade route already had a classroom of day care students standing in yellow shirts on 95th and Halsted. A half-dozen women in wheelchairs waited at 81st Street in front of the Naomi and Sylvester Smith Senior Living Center. Hundreds of students packed in at 79th Street near St. Sabina Academy. On 76th, there were more children in front of a learning center.
Terrence J. Lavin, an Illinois appeals court justice, grew up in the area playing Little League. Now, he said, he deals daily with “guns, gangs and drugs.” On Wednesday, he was not delivering speeches, but instead was at 87th Street in what he considers his neighborhood.
“There aren’t many parades down Halsted Street,” he said. “None in my memory. Remember when President Obama said that Trayvon Martin could be his son? There are thousands of Chicagoans, white and black, thinking that about these amazing kids.”
“They are medicine for a municipality dulled into a sort of crime stupor because of all the shootings,” he said. “We are better than that. And these kids are a living, breathing symbol of that.”
Oh, and on that note…hope you have a good day.
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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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
UPDATE: Algerian officials say the plane has crashed, but the crash site has not yet been located–see in a comment below.
Updates on Malaysian Airlines MH17
There is some new information on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 over Ukraine. According to an article in Corriere Dela Sera, reporter di Lorenzo Cremonesi learned from “pro-Russian militiamen” that they were told by “superiors” that the plane carried Ukrainian paratroopers.
“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.
More details at the link.
Another article at BBC News quotes rebel “prime minister” Alexander Borodai as admitting to receiving support from Russia, and making a number of excuses for the ghastly treatment of the bodies from MH17, Ukraine rebel leader Borodai admits to Russia links.
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.
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.
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.
The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.