It has been crazy the last couple of days here in Banjoville. So today’s post will be a quick round-up of the headlines making news this morning, with a few odd bits thrown in for fun.
First up, this disturbing article from the New York Times: U.S. General Open to Ground Forces in Fight Against ISIS in Iraq
President Obama’s top military adviser said Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States forces in ground operations against Islamic extremists in Iraq if airstrikes proved insufficient, opening the door to a riskier, more expansive American combat role than the president has publicly outlined.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while he was confident that an American-led coalition would defeat the Islamic State, he would not foreclose the possibility of asking Mr. Obama to send American troops to fight the militants on the ground — something Mr. Obama has ruled out.
“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” General Dempsey said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”
I don’t know about y’all, but all this makes me nauseous.
Indeed, the chances of success are far less in Syria than in Iraq, Dempsey said, as Hagel nodded agreement. “Five thousand alone is not going to be able to turn the tide,” Hagel said, referring to the number of Syrian rebels likely to be trained under a proposed U.S. program.
Even the pledge that no American soldiers would engage in ground combat operations seemed tenuous. Dempsey said he could foresee circumstances where American advisers would join Iraqi troops, for example, if the Iraqis tried to recapture Mosul, in what he called “close combat advising.”
“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey told the committee.
The appearance by Dempsey and Hagel came as the U.S. Central Command announced for the second day in a row that U.S. aircraft had conducted offensive strikes under Obama’s new authorization against Islamic State targets southwest of Baghdad. The aircraft conducted three strikes against a truck, an anti-aircraft artillery piece, “a small ISIL ground unit” and “two small boats on the Euphrates River that were resupplying ISIL forces in the area,” the statement said, using the acronym for the group that the government prefers.
The article points out this key point…
In their testimony, Hagel and Dempsey sought to brace the nation for a long war with an uncertain duration and outcome, repeatedly telling senators that they would make adjustments to the strategy as necessary.
Both struggled to define what degrading and destroying the Islamic State would look like. At one point, Dempsey suggested that it might be as simple as depriving the Islamic State forces of their current ability to move back and forth across the Syrian and Iraqi dividing line. “Restore the border and then they are defeated,” he said.
They also were at pains to explain whether the Islamic State presented an imminent threat to the United States. “Although the intelligence community has not yet detected specific plotting against the U.S. homeland, ISIL has global aspirations,” Hagel said. “If left unchecked, ISIL will directly threaten our homeland and our allies.”
Ugh, I’m past nausea. I think the dry heaves are coming next…Robert Fisk. Take it for what it is, okay? My mind is really too fried to make sense of anything now, but I got to say, any “arrangement” or “collaboration” made with Assad is bad news…IMHO. Assad’s letter to the US: How Syria is luring President Obama into its web – Middle East – World – The Independent
Syria has asked Washington to engage in military and intelligence collaboration to defeat their mutual enemy Isis, inviting US congressmen and senators to visit Damascus to discuss joint action against the jihadis who threaten both America and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
It’s an offer that President Barack Obama will have to refuse – but not without some embarrassment. After deciding to bomb the forces of Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, in Syria as well as Iraq, Mr Obama was confronted by Vladimir Putin’s warning that any such unilateral action in Syria would be “an act of aggression”.
The US President will now have to explain yet again why he cannot collaborate against America’s “apocalyptic” enemies with a Syrian regime which he has also sworn to overthrow – even though this regime is fighting exactly the same enemies.
And as if all this was not enough to get you happy morning, ISIS Releases New Video Threatening to Kill U.S. Forces in Iraq
In a bizarre new video reportedly released by ISIS late Tuesday that resembles a Hollywood movie trailer, the Sunni militant group appears to threaten to kill American troops in Iraq. The short clip, apparently a preview of a longer video called “Flames of War,” ends with the message, “fighting has just begun” and that more is “coming soon.”
The video was released hours after Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that ground troops might be necessary in the military campaign against ISIS in Iraq. In the clip, audio of Obama saying, “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” can be heard. The video also comes after a televised address from Obama last week, where he vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.
The House is set to vote today to allow the U.S. to train and arm Syrian rebels in the country, where ISIS has taken sanctuary. “If we want to open a front against (Islamic State forces) in Syria, we have to open a front. And I don’t see any other way to do it than try to build an alternative force,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, lead Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press. “No one’s excited about it but, you know, it’s the best from a series of bad options.”
Video that was at the link has been removed, but from what few still images I saw….all I can say is…damn. As the author of the Gawker article so aptly states:
This looks like a Michael Bay movie?
Enough of this shit. On to another vomit inducing topic. Still Playing: 12 NFL Players Have Domestic Violence Arrests – NBC News.com
Ray Rice may never again play in the NFL, but a dozen other players with domestic violence arrests are still suiting up on Sundays.
Ray McDonald and Chris Cook of the San Francsico 49ers, Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams of the Seattle Seahawks, Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes of the Chicago Bears, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, Erik Walden of the Indianapolis Colts, Donte Whitner of the Cleveland Browns, Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins and Frostee Rucker of the Arizona Cardinals have all been arrested for domestic violence or related charges since 2005, according to a USA Today database that tracks players’ arrests since 2000.
Some fought the charges and won. Others accepted blame, served short suspensions and returned to the game. The rest are still waiting for their day in court, the focus of intense new scrutiny as America’s most powerful sports league faces growing criticism over its handling of players’ off-the-field conduct.
Domestic violence and related incidents rank among the NFL’s biggest off-the-field problems, with 87 arrests involving 80 players over the last 14 years. The only other crime category with a larger number of arrests involving NFL players is DUI. But while the arrests are troubling, the rate is lower than the national average for men of similar age, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
The team with the most arrests of players for domestic violence and related charges is the Denver Broncos, with 12. But it hasn’t had one since 2010, when linebacker Kevin Alexander was cut a day after he was accused of hitting his girlfriend (the charges were later dropped). The team prides itself on its battery of professional-development resources. “While this is a very important issue, our team hasn’t had such an incident in nearly four years,” spokesman Patrick Smyth said. “It has zero such incidents under our current football leadership structure, which has been in place since 2011.”
Offenders on the field
Of the 12 active players with domestic violence-related arrests, the one with the most is Brandon Marshall, who has three. He’s never been convicted, but he served a three-game suspension in 2008 for personal conduct violations. But from there his story changes. He’s sought treatment, become an outspoken voice against domestic violence and is now considered a success, on and off the field.
Marshall has been offering commentary on the NFL’s unfolding crisis as an analyst for Showtime’s Inside the NFL. He said in a recent episode that he wasn’t sure whether a stricter disciplinary policy would have deterred him from violent behavior back then. The difference, he said, was deciding that he needed help.
Another player who has turned his career around is Bryant, a wide receiver for the Cowboys. In 2012, he was accused of hitting his mother, and agreed to anger counseling in exchange for having the charge dismissed. The NFL didn’t suspend him, but imposed a strict set of conduct guidelines that included counseling and a curfew. Last year, he showed up at a rally against domestic violence.
Then there’s Walden, a linebacker who was suspended by the Green Bay Packers for one game in 2011 after being jailed for an alleged assault against his live-in girlfriend. In court, he submitted to a deferred judgment agreement that allowed him to avoid pleading guilty while receiving counseling. He’s since landed with the Colts.
Cook, a cornerback, was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in October 2011. He sat out most of the season for the Minnesota Vikings, but was later acquitted of all charges. The Vikings reinstated him, and he now is a teammate of McDonald’s in San Francisco.
McDaniel, a defensive tackle, was on the Miami Dolphins in 2010 when he was arrested for shoving his girlfriend, whose head hit the pavement. He pleaded no contest, was put on probation, and the league suspended him one game. He is now playing in Seattle.
Whitner, a safety then with the Buffalo Bills, was accused of harassment in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend in 2006. The charges were later dropped, and the NFL imposed no punishment. He’s now playing in his native Cleveland.
Starks, a defensive tackle, was charged with domestic assault on his fiancée in 2006, while he was playing for the Tennessee Titans. He was ordered to receive counseling as part of a diversion program and was suspended for one preseason game. He now plays in Miami.
Rucker, a defensive end, was arrested after a fight with his girlfriend at a party in Los Angeles in 2006, when he was a Cincinnati Bengals draft pick. He pleaded no contest, and was suspended for a game, but successfully appealed the punishment because he’d been in college at the time of the incident. Rucker now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
Holmes, a wide receiver, has a long list of run-ins with the law. His domestic violence arrest came in 2006, when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the mother of his children accused him of choking her and slamming her into a door. But she later was reluctant to testify, and the charges were dropped. Holmes’ lawyers promised he’d participate in counseling through the NFL. He now plays with Marshall in Chicago.
Williams, a defensive tackle with a lengthy history of legal troubles, was on the Vikings in 2005 when he was accused of domestic assault for a fight with his wife at home. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was put on probation, but the NFL didn’t suspended him. In 2011, however, Williams was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. He now plays in Seattle.
The Joan Rivers case gets more disturbing as the weeks go by. Did y’all know her doctor had been sued for malpractice for taking a biopsy on someone without permission several years ago? Now this new information…Source: Joan Rivers’ doc did biopsy, selfie at clinic – CNN.com
The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers’ death happened as the comedian’s personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN.
A staff member at Manhattan’s Yorkville Endoscopy clinic told investigators that the doctor, who has not been publicly identified, took a selfie photo in the procedure room while Rivers was under anesthesia, the source said.
Rivers, 81, was at the clinic for a scheduled endoscopy by another doctor, gastroenterologist Dr. Lawrence Cohen. That procedure, intended to help diagnose her hoarse voice and sore throat, involved the insertion of a camera down her throat.
After Cohen, the clinic’s medical director, finished his work, a biopsy was done on Rivers without her prior consent, according to the source.
Yuk! All these selfies and cell phone apps! The world is really becoming a slave to those things: Chinese city creates cellphone sidewalk lane – Yahoo News
Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they’re going.
But the property manager says it’s intended to be ironic — to remind people that it’s dangerous to tweet while walking the street.
“There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” said Nong Cheng, the marketing official with Meixin Group, which manages the area in the city’s entertainment zone.
Meixin has marked a 50-meter (165-foot) stretch of pavement with two lanes: one that prohibits cellphone use next to one that allows pedestrians to use them — at their “own risk.”
Nong said the idea came from a similar stretch of pavement in Washington D.C. created by National Geographic Television in July as part of a behavior experiment.
I don’t think it is too much of a jump from “joke” to “for serious.”
My family just got new iPhones. I don’t have any clue what to do with these things. They are not the new 6s…they’re 5s and so intimidating, how can people stare at those things so damn long and not get sick.
Just a few more quick links.
A man described as a “survivalist,” a trained marksman with antigovernment leanings, was the gunman who killed one state police officer and injured a second in an ambush outside the barracks here last week, investigators said Tuesday.
At an afternoon news conference, police said they identified 31-year-old Eric Matthew Frein from documents he left in a Jeep he abandoned about two miles from the barracks, where he ambushed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass on Friday. Dickson was killed and Douglass critically injured.
Frein, who lived with his parents in Monroe County, was at large and considered extremely dangerous, possibly armed with a high-powered rifle that looks like an AK-47, police said.
England’s King Richard III might well have lost his kingdom for a horse.
The reviled king suffered nearly a dozen injuries on the battlefield, but the fatal blows were probably only sustained after he had to abandon his horse, according to a new paper in medical journal the Lancet.
“Richard was probably in quite a lot of pain at the end,” said Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Leicester and one of the study’s authors. She said the king was most likely attacked by numerous assailants after dismounting from his horse, which got stuck in a marsh.
Richard’s skeleton showed evidence of 11 injuries from weapons including daggers, swords and a long metal pole with an ax and hook that was used to pull knights off their horses. “Medieval battle was bloody and brutal,” she said, noting one of the injuries showed a sword had pierced his skull.
The nine injuries Richard suffered to his head suggest the king somehow lost or took off his helmet during the battle at Bosworth Field, against his rival and successor, Henry Tudor, on Aug. 22, 1485. He was the last English monarch to die in battle.
So…perhaps Black Adder, I mean, Shakespeare had it right?
Richard III: [looking for a horse] A horse!
Richard III: A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
[sees a horse]
Richard III: Ah! Horsey.
For our final link, a story about a dog…a Great Dane…those dogs are as big as a horse: Great Dane dined on 43 socks; all were removed in successful surgery – LA Times
140-pound Great Dane in Portland, Ore., is making headlines after a veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in the dog’s stomach during surgery.
The incident happened in February but only recently became public after the animal hospital where the socks were removed submitted the dog’s X-ray for a tongue-in-cheek industry award, said Shawna Harch, spokeswoman for DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital.
DoveLewis is where the 3-year-old dog went for the operation when the owners noticed the animal was growing increasingly ill but did not know why, Harch said.
The surgery took nearly three hours, but the dog has fully recovered, Harch said.
The 3-year-old canine, who had an affinity for chewing on socks but was not known to swallow them whole, was rushed to Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in February, hospital spokeswoman Shawna Harch said.
“We see some very strange things, but this is by far the most socks we’ve ever pulled out of an animal,” Harch said after X-ray images of the dog’s belly won a tongue-in-cheek veterinary industry prize called “They ate WHAT?”
DoveLewis will use the prize money to fund emergency care for pets of low-income animal owners, Harch said.
The Great Dane appeared to favor lush, colored socks in smaller sizes, images of the retrieved items showed. The sock-devouring pooch’s owners are keeping the hungry dog’s name private, Harch said.
“His owners wish to remain anonymous,” she said. “But they are getting a kick out of the award.”
And on that note…I will pass it on to you.
Have a brilliant day!
Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.
Reactions to Obama’s speech
From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.
President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.
In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.
“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.
But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.
All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”
The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.
In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.
Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.
“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”
In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.
Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.
According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.
Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.
Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.
In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.
At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.
Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.
It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
A couple more interesting stories to check out:
Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.
Violence Against Women News
I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.
The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”
Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter. The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.
In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.
“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.
She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.
On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.
The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.
That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.
The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”
Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.
The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.
I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.
ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.
Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.
One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.
“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.
The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.
“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,’” one staffer said.
“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,’” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”
There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.
A few more links:
NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?
Other News, Links Only
The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.
Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.
Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.
That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.
President Obama will give a prime-time speech at 9:00 tonight in which he will lay out a strategy to deal with the Islamic State Militants in Iraq and Syria. Let’s watch the speech together and discuss on what the President says in real time. I’ve gathered some links to articles that report on and react to the leaked content of the speech.
According to The Washington Post, Obama will announce a ‘broad coalition’ to fight the Islamic State terror group.
The United States will lead a “broad coalition” to defeat the Islamic State through air strikes and support for military partners on the ground, President Obama will announce Wednesday night….Obama will tell the country that the offensive against the militant group will not involve combat troops, but rather a “steady, relentless effort” that involves air power and backing for partner forces, according to early excerpts provided by the White House.
“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama will say, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.
Obama will make clear to a war-weary public that the offensive will not resemble the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but rather other, more covert, missions against terrorists.
“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” Obama will tell the nation.
“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Frankly, I’m very worried about this. I really don’t see how this is going to end well. I hope I’m wrong.
Richard Engel writes at NBC News, What Happens After the U.S. Bombs ISIS?
On one level, bombing ISIS is easy. The U.S. knows where the group operates. There’s no need for a ten-year hunt like the one for Osama bin Laden. The terror group has two capital cities, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Al-Qaeda never had such an obvious home address.
Finding a justification to attack ISIS is also simple. It has threatened to carry out another 9/11, beheaded two American journalists, slaughtered thousands of Iraqis and Syrians and is a danger to U.S. allies in the region. Many in the U.S. military believe ISIS needs to be immediately, and repeatedly, smashed by American drones and warplanes.
But what then happens to the Middle East – this seething cauldron of competing interests, religious passions, ethnic tensions, long memories and oil? The key question now, as before the Iraq invasion, is what happens after the U.S. starts bombing.
ISIS controls a territory roughly the size of Maryland where 8 million people live. If it’s attacked and toppled, who will fill the void? In Iraq, it will be the Kurdish fighters or the Iraqi army. The two don’t trust each other and have different objectives for the territory they control. The Kurds are laying the foundation for a future independent state. The Iraqi army is increasingly an Iranian-guided, Shiite force.
The U.S. spent billions of dollars to build a secular, professional national Iraqi army but failed because, despite all the U.S.-supplied guns, tanks and planes, the Iraqi military fell apart when challenged by a band of terrorists. President Obama wants to reconstitute it now as part of his ISIS strategy. Why would it work this time when it didn’t before, even as U.S. troops were standing next to Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad, shoulder to shoulder?
Good questions. Read more at the link.
From the LA Times, Obama to call for ‘steady, relentless’ effort against Islamic State.
Nearly six years after he was elected on the promise to end America’s decade of wars, Obama planned to detail a military campaign that is broader and more complex than any he has launched during his tenure.
Obama is expected to expand U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq to include targets throughout the country as well as across the rapidly disintegrating border with Syria, where the group harbors its weapons, camps and fighters.
White House officials say Obama also plans to further train and arm Iraqi and Kurdish troops as well as opposition forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. He’ll tout beefed-up partnerships with governments in the Middle East and Western allies, who have been asked to assist in the training, gather intelligence and counter the Islamic State’s appeal in the broader Muslim world.
In his televised remarks, Obama was to describe the effort as a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”
“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” according to prepared remarks released by the White House, referring to the Islamic State by a commonly used abbreviation.
Those article spell out the gist of what the President will say. Here are a few more links to peruse if you want more.
LA Times, Cheney urges Obama to launch ‘immediate’ assault on Islamic State (Sigh . . . why won’t he go away?)
Foreign Policy, There are already troops in Iraq. Problem is, they’re Iranian.
The New York Times, What Obama Faces in a Campaign Against ISIS.
It’s the last week of August, and the dog days of summer have supposedly passed; but the Boston area is supposed to hit ninety degrees today and tomorrow. I’m actually looking forward to it, because it has been so cool here lately–in the sixites and low seventies in the daytime and the fifties at night. Yesterday it got into the high eighties, and it felt wonderful.
The Boston Globe has a story today about Peter Theo Curtis, the writer who was just released from captivity in Syria. His mother lives in Cambridge. I had never heard of Curtis before; apparently his kidnapping was kept secret. The Globe reports: Militants free US writer with Mass. ties who was held in Syria.
Peter Theo Curtis, a writer and scholar with ties to the Boston area who was held captive for nearly two years by one of the Islamic militant groups operating in Syria, was released Sunday after emissaries from the government of Qatar won his freedom on humanitarian grounds, in a stark contrast to the brutal murder of fellow war correspondent James W. Foley .
Curtis’s 22 months in captivity were kept from the public at his family’s request since he was nabbed near the Syrian border in October 2012 by Al Nusra Front, one of the groups seeking to topple President Bashir Assad of Syria. Al Nusra Front has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Curtis, 45, who wrote dispatches under the name Theo Padnos and previously chronicled disaffected young Muslims in Yemen in a book titled “Undercover Muslim,” had studied Arabic in Syria.
He was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday evening, a UN spokesman in New York said. After it was determined he was in good medical condition, he was transferred to representatives of the US government, according to the UN.
“We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal,” his mother, Nancy Curtis, who lives in Cambridge, said in a statement, “but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS.”
Foley was from New Hampshire, and the two families have gotten to know each other well, according to Curtis.
Syria and Iraq
President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, according to BBC News.
Correspondents say the move could mark the first step towards US air strikes inside Syria, where the jihadist group controls vast swathes of territory.
The US is already carrying out strikes against IS in neighbouring Iraq.
On Monday, the Syrian government said it would work with the international community in the fight against IS.
Western governments have so far rejected suggestions that they collaborate with President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to counter the growing regional threat posed by IS….
On Monday evening, US officials said Mr Obama had approved over the weekend reconnaissance flights by unmanned and manned aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.
The US military has been carrying out aerial surveillance of IS – an al-Qaeda breakaway formerly known as Isis – in Iraq for months and launched air strikes on 8 August.
From The Boston Globe, citing “AP sources,” U.S. planes have already begun flying over Syria.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.
While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.
One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.
Two U.S. officials said Monday that Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name, and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Jim Michaels of USA Today spoke to Gen. Dempsey on Sunday about what is being done to deal with ISIS in Iraq.
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — U.S. airstrikes on Islamic militants in Iraq have blunted their momentum, but defeating them will require a broad regional approach that draws support from Iraq’s neighbors and includes political and diplomatic efforts, the top U.S. military officer said.
The long-term strategy for defeating the militants includes having the United States and its allies reach out to Iraq’s neighbors, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday….
Dempsey is working with Central Command to prepare “options to address [the Islamic State] both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools including airstrikes,” said Col. Ed Thomas, Dempsey’s spokesman, in a statement.
The militant group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has shown itself to be so brutal that Iraq and the U.S. should be able to find “willing partners” to join efforts to defeat the militants, Dempsey said.
But military power won’t be enough, Dempsey said. The strategy must take a comprehensive approach that includes political and diplomatic efforts to address the grievances of millions of Sunnis who have felt disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, he said.
I get the feeling that we’re never going to escape involvement in the endless Middle East conflicts, thanks to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of the neocon gang. What a horrible mess! We have our own messes to deal with here, but foreign wars always seem to trump the needs of the American people.
John Cassidy speculates at The New Yorker: What’s Next in Iraq and Syria?
On his first full day back from vacation, President Barack Obama could be forgiven for wishing he were still on Martha’s Vineyard. With confirmation that ISIS fighters have just captured another military base from the government forces of President Assad, and that Qatar has engineered the release of an American freelance journalist who was being held by a non-ISIS jihadist group, Obama has two formidable challenges to deal with.
The immediate task for Obama is deciding whether to launch American bombing raids on ISIS positions inside Syria, while simultaneously preparing his Administration, and the country at large, for the possibility of another video showing an American hostage being butchered. The ISIS militants, having carefully orchestrated the beheading of James Foley following the launch of U.S. strikes inside Iraq, will surely seek to exploit the fate of its remaining American hostages for maximum effect. Any U.S. decision to expand its air campaign is almost certain to be met with the release of more snuff films.
No President—no American—could take such a prospect lightly. At the same time, Obama has to guard against allowing emotion and wishful thinking to take over U.S. policy. That’s what happened after 9/11, and some of the chaos that we now see in the Middle East can be traced back to that historic blunder. What’s needed is calm cost-benefit analysis of the options open to the United States, taking account of its strategic interests, its values, and its capabilities. In short, we need what Danny Kahneman, the Princeton psychologist who pioneered behavioral economics, would refer to as some Type 2 thinking: a disciplined weighing of the likely consequences of our actions. If we give into our Type 1 reaction—horror, outrage, anger—we will be playing into the hands of the jihadists.
One place to start is by acknowledging two errors in thinking that have blighted U.S. policy in the past decade: the conservative delusion that the United States could, more or less single-handedly, use its military power to reinvent the Middle East, and the liberal illusion that we could simply walk away from the mess that Bush, Cheney & Co. created. Without the political willingness and the financial capability to garrison the region in the manner of postwar Germany and Japan, U.S. influence has to be exercised through air power, political proxies, economic inducements, and regional alliances. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that the United States and other Western countries have vital interests at stake, one of which is preventing the emergence of a rogue Islamic state that would provide a rallying point, and a safe haven, for anti-Western jihadists the world over.
Read the whole thing at the link.
The Economies of the U.S. and Europe
There has been so much breaking news for the past couple of months that we haven’t talked much about the economies of the U.S. and Europe. But today the European Central Bank is topping the headlines, and last week Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen spoke at Jackson Hole, so I thought I’d post a few economics stories.
Here’s CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.
That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.
“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.
The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.
Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.
Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.
Yellen called attention to what Americans in the job market already know–though the employment numbers look better, many people have stopped looking for work, and most of the new jobs are part-time and pay low wages.
A few more U.S. economy stories to check out:
The Wall Street Journal: Fed’s Yellen Remains Mum on Timing of Rate Change.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Job-Slack View Muddied by Pent-Up Wage Deflation.
If you think the economy is struggling here, you should take a look at Europe, where austerity thinking has ruled since the economic crisis hit. Yesterday the French government collapsed. From The New York Times, French Cabinet Is Dissolved, a Victim of Austerity Battles.
PARIS — The collapse of the French government on Monday exposed widening divisions both within France’s leadership, and Europe more broadly, over austerity policies that many now fault for threatening to tip the eurozone back into recession.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that he would dissolve his government after a rancorous battle in his cabinet over whether the belt-tightening measures taken by President François Hollande — at the urging of Germany and European Union officials in Brussels — were impeding France’s recovery.
The dispute broke into the open when Mr. Vall’s outspoken economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, insisted in an interview over the weekend that austerity had gone too far. “The priority must be exiting the crisis, and the dogmatic reduction of deficits should come after,” he told the newspaper Le Monde.
He also took direct aim at the policies of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. “Germany is caught in a trap of austerity that it is imposing across Europe,” he said.
Even the formerly strong German economy is struggling now, according to Reuters (via NYT), Crisis in Ukraine Drags Economy in Germany.
The eurozone’s flatlining economy took another hit on Monday when data showed German business sentiment sagging for the fourth consecutive month. Chancellor Angela Merkel attributed some of her own country’s decline in the second quarter to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, over which tit-for-tat sanctions threaten trade. The Munich-based Ifo, a research firm, echoed some of those sentiments as it reported its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 companies, fell to a worse-than-expected 106.3 from 108, the lowest level in more than a year. The findings agreed with data earlier in the month on the second-quarter contraction in Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy. Klaus Wohlrabe, an Ifo economist, said his institute expected growth in Germany to be “close to zero” in the third quarter.
A few more headlines on the European economic situation:
Bloomberg Businessweek on the European Central Bank, Draghi May Again Find Bazooka Words Beat Action With QE, and an editorial from The Financial Times, Central banks at the crossroads.
Yesterday, on the day of Michael Brown’s funeral, The New York Times published a story that got a great deal of attention because of its insensitive characterization of the dead teenager. Here the paragraph that attracted the angry reaction:
Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.
Would the authors have written a similar paragraph about a white homicide victim? From Vox, The New York Times called Michael Brown “no angel.” Here’s how it described serial killers.
“It comes out of the opening scene,” says Mitchell, who notes that “like many teenagers,” Brown was indeed “no angel.” Okay, but would the New York Times have chosen this term — which is commonly used to describe miscreants and thugs — if the victim had been white? Mitchell: “I think, actually, we have a nuanced story about the young man and if it had been a white young man in the same exact situation, if that’s where our reporting took us, we would have written it in the same way.” When asked whether she thought that “no angel” was a loaded term in this context, Mitchell said she didn’t believe it was. “The story … talks about both problems and promise,” she notes.
The Times’s response has done little to calm the storm. Sean McElwee, research assistant at Demos, dug into the archives to compare the Times’s description of Brown to the newspaper’s previous descriptions of serial killers and terrorists. Of course, comparing articles produced decades apart by different writers and editors isn’t an exact science. But it does lend context to the widespread frustration over how young black men are portrayed in the media.
A series of McElwee’s tweets are posted at the link, and are well worth reading.
One more from Salon by Joan Walsh, Ferguson’s booming white grievance industry: Fox News, Darren Wilson and friends. Check it out at Salon.
How did this post get so long?! I’d better wrap it up. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Tuesday!
Tuesday Reads: Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela; Robot Police; Republican Stupidity; Harold Ramis; and Women of “True Detective”Posted: February 25, 2014
There is so much foreign news these days, and I have to admit ignorance when it comes to discussing the situations in Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria. I don’t even know where to begin to understand the issues, and to be honest I just don’t have the time to try to do it. But here are some articles from sources I trust that struck me as important.
I’ll begin with something I can easily understand and care about: the fate of children in these conflicts. From The Independent, ‘No one cares’: The tragic truth of Syria’s 500,000 refugee children. The article is about British photojournalist Ed Thompson and an art student from Lebanon, Sammy Hamze, who went to Lebanon to put a spotlight on what is happening to Syrian refugee families.
We have heard the stories. Children at risk of dying from the cold in refugee camps; vulnerable to trafficking; begging on the side of the road; left orphaned and out of school; girls sold into marriage. But what shook Thompson most was that the children, although appearing older than their years, were still so young. “They are innocent, completely innocent,” he says now. “One father told me to look at his family; he could barely feed his son. They had been through hell, walked through hell and got to hell. All they want to do is go home.”
The conflict that has torn Syria apart has raged for almost three years, left more than 100,000 people dead in its wake and driven nine-and-a-half million from their homes. It took intense political pressure to get the British Government to agree to offer hundreds of the “most needy people” in Syrian refugee camps a home in this country. “We live in the modern age – we can read what’s going on in Syria; we’ve never had more information at our fingertips,” says Thompson – “but no one cares.”
If anything can break through the apathy, it is his pictures.
Read more and see some of Thompson’s photos at the link.
On Ukraine, I posted this article by Mark Ames in the comments yesterday, but I’ll link it again here: Everything you now about Ukraine is wrong.
I haven’t lived in that part of the world since the Kremlin ran me out of town, so I’m not going to pretend that I know as much as those on the ground there. Still, I’ve been driven nuts by the avalanche of overconfident ignorance that stands for analysis or commentary on the wild events there. A lethal ignorance, a virtuous ignorance….
Nearly everyone here in the US tries to frame and reify Ukraine’s dynamic to fit America-centric spats. As such, Ukraine’s problems are little more than a propaganda proxy war where our own political fights are transferred to Ukraine’s and Russia’s context, warping the truth to score domestic spat points. That’s nothing new, of course, but it’s still jarring to watch how the “new media” counter-consensus is warping and misrepresenting reality in Ukraine about as crudely as the neocons and neoliberals used to warp and Americanize the political realities there back when I first started my Moscow newspaper, The eXile.
Read about what Ames calls the “simplifications/misconceptions” that are driving Ames crazy at Pando Daily.
And then there’s Venezuela. At The Washington Post, Adam Tayor asks, Amid the coverage of Ukraine, is a crisis in Venezuela being ignored? It’s an interesting question. And what about Syria, which has pretty much disappeared in all the coverage of Ukraine? Is American media simply incapable of covering more than one foreign conflict at a time? Read all about it at the link.
One more story on Venezuela from Peter Weber at The Week: Venezuela isn’t going to be another Ukraine.
Venezuela is not Ukraine, and beneath the similarities in the protest movements are significant differences.
The first is time: The Kiev protesters started their demonstration in November after Yanukovych reneged on a European Union trade pact, and they gradually built up a tent fortress in the central Maidan Square. In Venezuela, the protests started on Feb. 4 at the university in San Cristóbal, with students showing their anger over the lack of police response to an attempted rape and crime in general.
The “brutal police crackdown” on the student protesters in San Cristóbal led to similar protests at other universities, which were also violently suppressed, says Francisco Toro in The New York Times. “As the cycle of protests, repression, and protests-against-repression spread, the focus of protest began to morph. What was at stake, the students realized, was the right to free assembly.” Toro continues:
It’s this intolerance of opposing views, and violent repression, that Venezuela’s students are now mobilized against. Today, after 13 deaths, 18 alleged cases of torture and over 500 student arrests, the protest movement has snowballed into a nationwide paroxysm of anger that puts the government’s stability in question. The protests’ lack of structure has given them resilience, but also an anarchic edge. There is no single leader in a position to give the movement strategic direction. [The New York Times]
Read more comparisons at the link.
In Other News . . .
If you think the prospect of being spied on by NSA is frightening, you need to read this article by James Robinson at Pando Daily: Knightscope’s new robotic law enforcer is like staring at the demise of humanity.
Knightscope’s autonomous, crime fighting robot has the complexion of a washing machine. In pictures it looks cute, the size of a penguin maybe. In person it is five feet tall with intimidating breadth. It moves steadily and with insistence. If you stare at it long enough, the twin panels of lights about two-thirds of the way up its body start to take on the appearance of shifty, judgmental eyes. It sees what you’re doing and wants you to cut it out.
The full name of the Knightscope robot on display at the Launch Festival this morning was the K5 beta prototype. Former Ford Motor Company executive and Knightscope CEO William Santana Li describes it to MC and festival organizer Jason Calacanis onstage as a “crime fighting autonomous data machine.” But that doesn’t come close to doing it justice….
As Santana Li outlines proudly, the beast before him on stage takes in 360-degree video through four cameras, is capable of thermal imaging, registers gestures, recognizes faces and can run 300 license plates in a single minute. It works off proximity GPS and scans its environment every 25 milliseconds. It runs off nearly identical technology to Google’s self-driving cars. He boasts that it can see, feel, hear and smell. It is autonomous, will roam outdoors, can take video, decide when it needs to return and charge its batteries and can detect biological and chemical pathogens and radiation.
The Knightscope will get put out in the field gathering data, Santana Li says. The owner can log in to a security panel and get a read of what is going on in the area. The robot can scan license plates and report back on stolen cars. Its facial recognition capabilities can alert its owner to any registered sex offender in the area. The sample dashboard Santana Li logs in to, shows that the robot can report back about things as specific as how many people are lying horizontal and how many are gesturing with their hands. The company is working on giving it a 3M graffiti proof sheen, it emits a piercing sound if someone tries to tip it over and the machines will often work in pairs so they can protect each other.
How would you like to live in a world where one of those things is checking up on you wherever you go?
From Laura Bassett at Huffington Post, here’s the latest from the land of Republican misogyny and stupidity: Virginia Republican Says A Pregnant Woman Is Just A ‘Host,’ Though ‘Some Refer To Them As Mothers.’ Yes, someone really said that.
A pregnant woman is just a “host” that should not have the right to end her pregnancy, Virginia State Sen. Steve Martin (R) wrote in a Facebook rant defending his anti-abortion views.
Martin, the former chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, wrote a lengthy post about his opinions on women’s bodies on his Facebook walllast week in response to a critical Valentine’s Day card he received from reproductive rights advocates.
“I don’t expect to be in the room or will I do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive,” Martin wrote. “However, once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.” Martin then changed his post on Monday afternoon to refer to the woman as the “bearer of the child” instead of the “host.”
Martin explained that he edited his post because “people took it the wrong way.” Read his original post at the link.
And then there’s good old Bobby Jindal, who still thinks he has a chance to be POTUS: Jindal Breaches White House Protocol To Take Shots At Obama.
The National Governors Association is supposed to bring Democrats and Republicans together to discuss policy and share ideas for mutual success, but after a meeting at the White House Monday, all pretense at bipartisan comity was shattered as a press conference with lawmakers descended into a partisan fracas.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal launched into a repeated assault on President Barack Obama’s leadership in the shadow of the West Wing, in defiance of established bipartisan protocol. Speaking after a meeting of the NGA at the White House, Jindal, the vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, said Obama is “waving a white flag” by focusing on executive actions with three years left in his term. “The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal added….
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy rose to challenge Jindal immediately after he spoke to reporters, calling his remarks on Obama waving a white flag “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”
Jindal then returned to the microphones to continue his barrage against the Obama administration, saying as Malloy walked off, “I want to make sure he hears a more partisan statement,” and saying Obama should delay the Affordable Care Act mandates. It wasn’t the first time Jindal had used the microphones outside the White House to attack the president, having done the same at last year’s meeting.
Fortunately, Bobby Jindal will never be president. What a horrible excuse for a human being.
As everyone knows by now, we lost a great comedy writer, director, and performer yesterday. From The Chicago Tribune: Harold Ramis, Chicago actor, writer and director, dead at 69.
Harold Ramis not only may be the most successful comedy writer-director that Chicago has produced, but some wouldn’t even confine that statement to Chicago.
“Harold was clearly the most successful comedy writer-director of all time,” said Tim Kazurinsky, who followed Ramis at Second City and later became his friend. “The number of films that he has made that were successful, that were blockbusters, nobody comes close. Even in light in of that, he was more successful as a human being.”
Ramis’ career was still thriving in 1996, with “Groundhog Day” acquiring almost instant classic status upon its 1993 release and 1984′s “Ghostbusters” ranking among the highest-grossing comedies of all time, when he decided to move his family back to the Chicago area, where he grew up and had launched his career.
On Monday, Ramis was surrounded by family in his North Shore home when he died at 12:53 a.m. of complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, said his wife, Erica Mann Ramis. He was 69.
Read The New York Times obituary here: Harold Ramis, Alchemist of Comedy, Dies at 69.
Finally, a little True Detective news. Dakinikat posted this in the comments yesterday, but if you didn’t go to the link you might have missed something really revelatory.
A number of writers have noted that the hit HBO series focuses almost exclusively on the male characters and that women and children are only seen and heard in terms of their effect on the men–for example, see this article at The New Yorker by Emily Nussbaum: The shallow deep talk of “True Detective.”
Yesterday two feminist writers took a different point of view. At Slate, Willa Paskin argues that the way the men of True Detective treat women is actually at the heart of the narrative–that by not listening to women, Detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle miss the very clues that would help them solve their 17-year case.
Ignoring women may be the show’s blind spot, but it is also one of its major themes. True Detective is explicitly about the horrible things that men do to women, things that usually go unseen and uninvestigated. No one missed Dora Lange. Marie Fontenot disappeared, and the police let a rumor stop them from following up. Another little girl was abducted, and a report was never even filed. “Women and children are disappearing, nobody hears about it, nobody puts it together,” Rust told his boss Sunday night, outlining what he believes is a vast conspiracy in the Bayou. Rust is haunted by women who aren’t there—his ex-wife and his dead daughter—while Marty cannot deal appropriately with the women who are.
I’m inclined to agree with Paskin. In fact, I’m going to take it a step further and argue that I think, whatever else happens, this inability of the main characters to really see women is going to be their downfall. Over and over again, the show obsesses about the gap between self-serving delusions and narratives and what’s really going on. Marty repeatedly talks about how detectives frequently overlook what should have been most obvious, what was right under their noses. He calls it the “detective’s curse”. “Solution was right under my nose, but I was paying attention to the wrong clues.”
I am going to offer this prediction, then: The solution will be right under their noses, but they missed it because they don’t really see women.
Indeed, the internet sleuths are already on it. Remember that all-important yearbook photo that they found one of the victims in? Well, guess what? Other female characters that Marty and Rust have interacted with are in the picture. Here’s the picture with the women helpfully numbered.
On the far right of the front row is a girl who grew up to be the woman who killed her three children because of Munchhausen by proxy syndrome–the woman whom Rust got to confess and then told her to kill herself. Was she traumatized at that school? Could she have given him some valuable information? Why didn’t Rust follow up on those photos?
Something to think about while we wait for Sunday night to roll around.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread.
Today’s post will be brought to you by the color purple. Why? I don’t know, maybe because of the color’s significance…maybe it is because I felt like it…maybe it is because I wanted to put up some of my saved images of women wearing purple hats. Who the hell knows.
Anyway, the links will be a mixture of this and that…mostly news stuff at first.
The Taliban confirmed publicly on Sunday that they had been in talks with the United States over the release of an American soldier, but said the talks had now been suspended.
The unusual Taliban statement, which was emailed to journalists, said that the talks had taken place “recently” with the mediation of Qatar, suggesting that meetings took place in Qatar, where the Taliban have an unofficial political office.
The talks had previously been rumored, but this is the first time the insurgents have publicly confirmed them. They are aimed at reviving a longstanding offer by the American government to release Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, into custody in Qatar, in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of the United States Army, the only American being held by insurgents in Afghanistan.
Talks confirmed and suspended in the same emailed statement. Prior to this message, news of a Taliban attack also hit the MSM:
The Afghan Taliban attacked an army outpost in eastern Kunar province early on Sunday, the Afghan government said, killing 19 soldiers in what appeared to be the most deadly assault on security forces in months.
Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi, in a posting on his Twitter feed, said 19 soldiers were killed, and two wounded, in Kunar’s Ghaziabad district.
Abdul Ghani Musamem, spokesman for the provincial governor, said seven soldiers were captured by the Taliban in the attack in a remote, mountainous area near the border with Pakistan.
He said Afghan forces had launched an operation to try to free the captured soldiers. The Defence Ministry did not immediately confirm the report of captured soldiers.
In a statement provided to media organizations, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
My head gets dizzy with this news of violence, but it is not the only mess in the world that seems to be never-ending.
Of course, you have Syria: Car bomb kills nine people in Syrian town of Atmeh: activists | Reuters
At least nine people were killed in a car bomb attack on Sunday near a field hospital in the Syrian town of Atmeh near the border with Turkey, activists said.
The hospital is owned by Ghassan Aboud, a Gulf-based businessman who runs Orient Television, which said at least 10 people were killed.
That was filed at 4:55 am EST…yeah, I know it is that late/early. (What can I say, Treasure of Sierra Madre is on TCM and I have to make the Sicilian pizza today which I will need to start soon anyway.)
In Ukraine, Fox News is reporting via AP: Where’s the President? Yanukovych’s whereabouts unknown
Nearly a full day after Ukrainian President Viktor Yankovych departed his country’s capital, Kiev, leaving it to the protesters who have called for his removal for three months and the parliament that voted to do just that Saturday, no one seems to know where he is.
A plane with Yanukovych onboard was denied permission to take off Saturday evening from Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is the president’s base of support, en route to Russia, the State Border Guard Service said. Oleh Slobodyan of the State Border Guard service told the Associated Press Sunday that the plane did not have the proper documentation. The president was driven off in a car from the airport.
Yanukovych did speak on television Saturday in Kharkiv, accusing his opponents of trying to overthrow the government.
“Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and banditry and a coup d’etat,” he said. “I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed.”
However, Yanukovych’s movements have not been accounted for since, and even his spokesman told the Associated Press Sunday morning that he does not know where his boss is.
Protestors have taken the city of Kiev for now and protestors have flocked into the empty presidential compound. But during the height of chaos this week, one news outlet managed to capture stunning footage of Kiev from above with the help of a drone.
The drone, utilized by the German news agency Ruptly, captured some pretty unsettling footage showing parts of the city up in flames after days and days of protests. Thursday was the bloodiest day of the conflict thus far, with dozens killed and hundreds more injured as protestors faced off with Ukraine police forces.
Video at the link.
Hey, but Europe/Eastern Europe/Central Asia etc, aren’t the only places having it out, down in South America: Venezuela death toll reaches 11 as protests continue – latimes.com
Opponents and supporters of President Nicolas Maduro held massive demonstrations Saturday in central Caracas and other Venezuelan cities as the unofficial death toll rose to 11 in more than a week of unrest.
Leading the opposition demonstration in eastern Caracas was Liliana Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, the former Caracas borough mayor who was arrested this week and charged with inciting violence that has erupted during protests.
Lopez and other opposition leaders say armed pro-government vigilantes have been responsible for the deaths and that the opposition has demonstrated peacefully to protest rising crime and shortages. Speaking at a rally attended by tens of thousands of mostly white-shirted opposition members, Tintori said her husband has been jailed unjustly.
“No one can tell me this is not a dictatorship. This is a dictatorship,” said Tintori who shared the platform with opposition leaders Maria Corina Machado and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. “No one can tell me we are divided. We are united. Leopoldo will do what is necessary so that Venezuelans unite in peace, and can walk the streets in safety.”
Now, back to the USA…Y’all heard about the shit Ted Nugent said about Obama, calling him a ‘subhuman mongrel.’ Take a look at this: The GOP, Race and Ted Nugent: If you won’t Denounce Nazi Insults, What does that Say about You? | Informed Comment
On Friday, Nugent “apologized” (though “not to president Obama”) for using the language insofar as it embarrassed other Republicans associated with him. That is, he did not actually apologize at all.
Sarah Palin said of Abbott, “if he’s good enough for Ted Nugent, he’s good enough for me!” Sen. Ted Cruz, quizzed on Nugent’s language, replied that he was sure that President Obama’s Hollywood friends had also said some extreme things.
Really, Ted? This comment is just “extreme”? And which liberal in the film industry has said anything like that?
The fact is that the Republican Party today has a problem with race. Not across the board, but it is there. The Party is is disproportionately made up of self-conceived white southerners with some white Midwesterners and westerners, allied with Wall Street big money. It has even lost the majority of Asian-Americans and Arab-Americans, and can’t get even a plurality of Latinos or more than a handful of African-Americans (traditionally Republicans before the 1970s) to vote for it. The Tea Party and other currents in the party often express white male rage about the rise of the minorities, and the party’s refusal to consider immigration reform is rooted in that rage.
Of course you can read more at the link.
There was also some news about asshole cops:
That is quality top notch policing if you ask me. /snark
More ridiculous crap to get you worked up here…I got this petition notice in my email yesterday.
In an article in The Nation by Jessica Valenti, TED content director and TEDWomen co-host Kelly Stoetzel said that abortion does not fit into the focus on “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.” She said that “Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill.”
But that’s just it – access to abortion IS an issue of justice, inequality, and human rights. As NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue noted in her letter, last year the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, issued a report declaring that denying women access to abortion amounts to torture. If families cannot care for, feed, or plan their families adequately, they are more likely to remain in poverty. That’s inequality. As Tara Culp-Ressler points out, 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year. Not talking about abortion has many consequences. It leads to inadequate support for people who have abortions, lack of insurance coverage of abortion, and even unsafe abortions.
Statistics show that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45, but because of silence and stigma, they often don’t feel safe enough to talk about their abortion. I know this from experience. I felt ashamed and isolated for six years. I had no one to talk to. The people I meet who’ve had abortions feel it too. Abortion stigma hurts. Can we talk about it?
By talking openly about abortion, TED Talks will reach out to millions of people with abortion experiences and tell us that we matter. Our stories matter.
What if TED spread a great new idea – how to listen to people’s experience with compassion, love, and without judgment?
Those of us who have had abortions, and our loved ones, hear you. We are watching you. Will you take a moment to listen to us? Will you help share our stories?
TED Talks have the power to shift abortion stigma. They have the power to create a space within TED where people can hear nuanced, honest abortion stories. Our voices need to be heard. TED Talks: Lift Your Ban on Abortion!
If you can go on TED Talks and listen to the
shit talks they have by Jesus freaks Rick Warren, Billy Graham, A.J. Jacobs, then I think they have enough space to hold talks on women’s issues as important as rights to safe legal abortion.
Look at this interesting map, I wonder what Dak has to say about it: Income Inequality Is Even Worse In Big Cities: Study
As for something fun: 15 Made-Up Words That You Should Start Using Right Now
Ever heard of “nurdeling”? You know, the act of sticking your cold feet under someone’s butt on the couch. How about a “woolly-doop-doop”? That thing, when you’re driving and you go fast over a bump in the road, and that it makes your stomach jump a little. Not ringing any bells?
Well, that’s because these are made-up words, courtesy of “The Made-Up Words Project.” The hilarious illustration series is the brainchild of designer Rinee Shah, a San Francisco-based artist who sketches out the meanings of comically nonsensical terms. Particularly, words that are commonplace amongst certain groups of friends and family members that, for one reason or another, just stuck.
You can see Shah artwork here: The Made-Up Words Project
I am thinking of sending her my daughter’s phrase “Coochie Day” you know, what she calls those days when only beings with “coochies” go out and do something special. No “dingys” aloud!
Okay, on to news out of the NFL:
John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league’s competition committee to enact a rule at the owner’s meeting next month making it an automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, with a second infraction meriting an ejection.
I wonder when the use of the word “Redskins” will get the same kind of racial allocation?
Michael Sam stepped onto stage and looked into what might have been the largest media gathering in the history of the NFL scouting combine. Hundreds of reporters clustered in, and there were three rows of TV and video cameras.
“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player,” the Missouri defensive end said, “instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”
Then again, it was Sam who generated the story with his announcement two weeks ago he is homosexual, telling his story to the New York Times and ESPN. He is on track to become the first openly gay professional athlete in a major American team sport, and he acknowledges the significance of his place in history.
“Everything that my Mizzou family has done for me has been amazing,” he said, wearing a small, rainbow-colored “Stand With Sam” button on his NFL-issued sweatsuit. “I walk around campus and dozens of students and faculty give me hugs or kisses, start crying in my arms. It’s unbelievable.”
I think it is wonderful and brave of Sam to come out like he did. It should not be such a big deal, but believe me it is. I know in all these years of NFL there have been gay players on the field. It would be crazy to think that the NFL has been “gay free,” just as it is to think Sochi is “gay free.”
And even though I could usually care less about the draft, I am paying attention to it this time.
Tennis great Billie Jean King arrived for Sunday’s closing of the 2014 Winter Olympics with a message for Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community: Hang in, hang on, and you’re not alone.
“Having the Winter Olympics here, the situation here in Russia, has opened up dialogue,” King said Saturday. “I’m always big on love over hate, and I think it’s important that everyone’s treated equally and good to each other. Hopefully, the LGBT community here in Russia knows that they’re not alone and we’ll learn from them.”
King, who is gay, is part of the official U.S. delegation that will witness the end of the 23-day international sports festival. Her presence represents the United States’ objection to a so-called “anti-propaganda” law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed last June.
In other Olympic news, did you see the racist comments from Ashley Wagner Blasts Olympic Figure Skating Judging, Calls For An End To Anonymous Judging
Well, for a little more analysis on that statement of Wagner: Why Ashley Wagner Is Wrong About Figure Skating
The American skater who ended up in seventh place yesterday is all over the news this morning saying she feels cheated — actually, “gypped” is the word she unfortunately used. Wagner is already known for the face she made when she got a low score during the team competition earlier in the games. Now she’s publicly questioning the sport’s judging system.
Before the scores even came in commentator Tara Lipinski noted, “To the audience it may look perfect, but when the judges go back and examine those landings she’s going to lose a lot of points.”
“A few shaky landings, a few issues here and there, landing on two feet,” said Johnny Weir. “But it wasn’t a flying endorsement of Ashley Wagner.”
Weir used the word endorsement because her selection for the U.S. Olympic team was surprising after a poor performance at Nationals — an unofficial qualifying event for the American team — where she finished fourth and fell twice. But the skating association sent Wagner to the Olympics because she has more experience in the international competitive circuit than skater who finished ahead of her, Mirai Nagasu.
Wagner’s skates at the Olympics are certainly a huge personal victory after all that doubt and pressure. Taking her bows after the long program, she was celebrating like she had the skate of her life. And her performances were fun to watch and both good ones — but just because she didn’t fall doesn’t mean they were great. And it doesn’t mean, as she is suggesting, that she deserves to place higher than other skaters who did fall, especially when those other skaters landed more difficult jumps more beautifully than she did. Her remarks are poor sportsmanship — and seem to be a campaign to change the sport to favor those who don’t take risks.
Enough of that shit, now for some interesting and pretty links.
With its steep, forested mountains set against blue skies, Romania’s central Pojarna Valley once looked like a postcard landscape but illegal logging has turned the site into an ugly scar.
“The guys who did this used excavators. They even destroyed the young trees,” said Gheorghe Ridichie, an official at Romania’s forestry ministry, pointing to thousands of stumps poking out of the valley’s now-barren slopes.
Barren slopes to bare naked bodies: Photos Of Nude Dancers Show A Very Different Side Of The Human Body (NSFW)
Ludovic Florent‘s series “Poussières d’étoiles” (Stardust). In it, the French photographer captures the fluid movements of nude dancers, their bodies partially covered by clouds of dust that both obscure and accentuate the curves and lines of their muscles. The images provide a very different perspective of the human body, emphasizing the dynamic potential of bare forms.
More than 750 sharks, tarpon, tuna and billfish, fitted with satellite-linked tags, are providing scientists with data on temperature and salinity at various depths in the Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean. It’s information they hope could someday be used to improve hurricane forecasts, since a storm’s strength largely depends on how much warm water it will encounter.
“What the fish are providing is a profile of the ocean’s heat structure,” said Jerald Ault, a marine biology professor at the University of Miami. “You get a picture of what the upper layers of the ocean look like.”
Ault and other scientists at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science started tagging tarpon in 2001 and sharks in 2010 to learn more about migration, feeding and reproduction. About three years ago, they discovered a remarkable pattern: the fish remained in waters that were about 79 degrees, the minimum required for tropical systems to develop.
In addition, many swam into the waters around tropical systems, which churned up nutrients and made hunting for food easier.
That’s when scientists realized that fish could provide accurate ocean temperatures, which could be fed into the computer models that forecasters use to develop tropical predictions.
Funny how animals can predict things like weather, storms, earthquake and tsunamis? Some can even tell when people are about to have epileptic seizures. I don’t know, something to think about on this Sunday Morning isn’t it?
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