I am not up for much lately, so here goes a quick news round-up. Surprises out of swamp, as Obama picks a girl to head the Secret Service…Secret Service Gets First Female Director
President Obama on Tuesday appointed Julia A. Pierson, a longtime Secret Service agent, as the first woman to head the agency best known for protecting the president, vice president and their families.
Ms. Pierson, the chief of staff to Mark J. Sullivan, who retired as director last month, will take over at a time when the Secret Service is still recovering from a prostitution scandal last year that held it up to public ridicule, generated Congressional hearings and cost a number of agents their jobs.
The appointment represented a milestone for law enforcement, putting a woman at the top of an agency with a storied past and a Hollywood-fueled image of Clint Eastwood-style men with sunglasses and earpieces stoically guarding the commander in chief at home and abroad. Mr. Obama has also installed women as directors of the Marshals Service and Drug Enforcement Administration, but the Secret Service has a unique visibility.
Of course Pierson is highly qualified.
With 30 years of experience in the Secret Service, Ms. Pierson, 53, boasts a résumé much like those of her predecessors, including a stint on the first President George Bush’s protective detail. But the timing of her selection inevitably means that Washington will be watching closely to see how or if she changes a male-driven culture that came under harsh scrutiny when agents were caught employing prostitutes in Colombia before Mr. Obama arrived for a visit.
“During the Colombia prostitution scandal, the Secret Service lost the trust of many Americans and failed to live up to the high expectations placed on it,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. “Ms. Pierson has a lot of work ahead of her to create a culture that respects the important job the agency is tasked with. I hope she succeeds in restoring lost credibility in the Secret Service.”
In a statement, Mr. Obama said Ms. Pierson “exemplified the spirit and dedication” of the agency but made no mention of the scandal.
Now we wait for the Senate to confirm…
This next article is on sleep, or should I say little bit of sleep. Can you train yourself to get by on less sleep?
Margaret Thatcher did it. So did Salvador Dali. They survived the day with only a few hours of sleep. The question is whether you can force yourself to do the same.
We waste a third of our lives sleeping – or that’s how some people see it. When there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, you yearn to be like the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was said to get by on just four hours sleep a night, or the artist Salvador Dali who wasted as little time as possible slumbering.
There is a quite a range in the number of hours we like to sleep. As Jim Horne writes in Sleepfaring, 80% of us manage between six and nine hours a night; the other 20% sleep more or less than this. But how easy is it to change your regular schedule? If you force yourself to get out of bed a couple of hours early every day will your body eventually become accustomed to it? Sadly not.
There is plenty of evidence that a lack of sleep has an adverse effect. We do not simply adjust to it – in the short-term it reduces our concentration, and if it’s extreme it makes us confused and distressed, and turns us into such poor drivers that it’s the equivalent of being drunk. The long-term effects are even more worrying. Repeatedly getting less sleep than you need over the course of decades is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
But what about those people who do happily appear to manage on fewer hours than the rest of us? Why does it not seem to make them ill?
All that article makes me think of that episode of Seinfeld, where Kramer only sleeps 20 minutes every 3 hours…
“My brain is mossy Jerry, mossy…”
I’ve got two more links for you, hellish ideas and torturous settlements.
The Worst Idea In The History Of Cable News: An Anderson Cooper-Kathy Griffin Series on CNN | Mediaite- Oh yeah, this is a bad combination…I think I would rather do my nails in a Cuisinart than watch those too together again…ugh. Their partnership while covering the New York New Years Eve celebration was horrifying. I am not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea…from Joe Concha:
So it’s safe to say that I remember where I was ten minutes ago at 8:10 PM EST when I heard the apocalyptic (unconfirmed) report that CNN, C-N-N, actually filmed a pilot today starring Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin at Time Warner Studios in New York, according to Deadline.com.
My reaction caused paint chips to fall off my ceiling:
It’s one thing to put the Cooper and Griffin together on New Year’s Eve: Most folks watching that night are already overserved, likely older (See: Not out, but struggling to stay awake until midnight and watching a cable news network’s coverage of the ball dropping in Times Square in the process). Some tune to CNN because somewhere in the back of their brain, they recall reading about Griffin doing something provocative, something wild in the past, like dropping a completely-planned F-bomb or performing an oral rendition on her openly gay co-host (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So they tune in to witness the now-contrived bit, perhaps for no other reason but lack of a better idea.
Older? I don’t know about that, viewers were either drunk or strung out tired, probably from too little sleep due to following the whacked out theory Kramer had in that video up top.
I don’t know if a show with Cooper and Griffin falls under the definition of torture…but the ride this guy took at Disneyland sure as hell sounds like torture to me…It’s A Small World ride breaks down, forces disabled man to listen to that song for 30 minutes
For one man at Disneyland, it was less a world of laughter than world of tears.
Disneyland has paid disabled man Jose Martinez $8,000. Their crime? Not evacuating him from It’s A Small World after the ride broke down in 2009, leaving him listening to that song for half an hour.
The song couldn’t be shut off. Most adults are ready to strangle someone after going through the ride at regular speed. Like the song says, “It’s a world of hopes, it’s a world of fears,” and this sounds like it belongs on most of our top fear lists.
Martinez’s lawyer, David Geffen (no relation?), says that Martinez was the only passenger not evacuated when the ride broke down in 2009, according to the Associated Press. Geffen also says that Disneyland staff failed to call the fire department to help free Martinez.
Martinez uses a wheelchair, as well as suffering from panic attacks and high blood pressure, Geffen says, according to the AP. He also had to use the restroom for much of the time — all while being surrounded by water. Those oceans must have started to seem pretty wide.
Martinez wasn’t medically stabilized for three hours, Geffen said, according to the AP. Geffen said that half of the award was for pain and suffering, while the other half is for violating disability laws.
Ooof, that makes me think of a couple of other funny video clips…
This version of It’s a Duff World from the Simpsons:
In the episode entitled “Selma’s Choice“, Bart and Lisa Simpson travel with their aunt Selma to Duff Gardens, a parody of the Busch Gardens amusement park, but also containing elements of Disneyland. In the gift shop, Bart spots “beer goggles“, spectacles that mimic what drunks see: they make Aunt Selma appear young, feminine, and beautiful to Bart – and also, somehow, alter her voice. Later, they see the mascots of Duff Beer, the Seven Duffs.
In the same episode, there is also a direct parody of the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disney parks. In the cartoon, the boats float on a brown liquid as animatronic children sing “Duff beer for me, Duff beer for you, I’ll have a Duff, You have one, too,” over and over again. Lisa drinks the liquid in the ride on a dare from Bart, and she freaks out from its hallucinogenic properties.
Here is a bit clip of the ride…Duff beer world:
And then this episode from Family Guy: The Courtship of Stewie’s Father, where Peter takes Stewie…
…to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Excited at the prospect of visiting Disney World, Stewie forgives Peter, although pretending to be annoyed. When the pair arrive, Peter inadvertently loses Stewie, who is captured by Disney World employees and forced to sing at the Tiny World ride, complying to do so after learning that the alternative is to be in a Christmas movie with Tim Allen.
And lastly, this episode of South Park, Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride.
You can see the full episode here, Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride (Season 1, Episode 4) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios, or you can watch the song clip here: Big Gay Boat Ride – Video Clips – South Park Studios
Y’all enjoy your day, and please have a Duff Beer for me…will ya?
Well, after having a good evening, watching a couple of Italian films last night, Life is Beautiful and Miracle on Madonna Street, I have a few links for you this morning.
The New York Post has an article about the battles being fought in Africa: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars to Iran
The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection.
Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150.
For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation.
When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran.
Read the rest at the link, it is a long article.
In other news, this time out of Brazil: Fast New Test Could Find Leprosy Before Damage Is Lasting
A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore.
American researchers developed the test, and Brazil’s drug-regulatory agency registered it last month. A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less.
“This will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages,” said Dr. William Levis, who has treated leprosy patients at a Bellevue Hospital outpatient clinic for 30 years.
Even more important, he said, it is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear. And the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, related to the one that causes tuberculosis, but reproducing so slowly that symptoms often take seven years to appear.
This new test requires just a drop of blood and the results are given after only ten minutes.
The disease has historically been hard to diagnose, despite the popular, but inaccurate, image of fingers and toes dropping off victims. As the bacteria kill nerves, muscles atrophy and those digits curl into claws. After disuse and repeated injuries, the body reacts protectively by absorbing the bone calcium in the bones, shrinking the digits.
For centuries, some observant doctors have noticed early signs: the numb skin patches, missing eyebrows, drooping earlobes, bulging neck nerves, the flat “lion face” caused by nasal cartilage dissolving.
Since nothing could be done for them before the age of antibiotics, victims lost the use of their hands and had to beg. Some also went blind as the blinking muscles degenerated and their eyes dried out. In the Middle Ages, some towns banned lepers, while others required them to ring bells to warn of their approach. Religious charities created “leper colonies.”
And they still exist, even in the United States. A few elderly residents have chosen to stay on in Carville, La., and Kalaupapa, Hawaii, despite having been cured. Several thousand live at one in northeast Brazil, said John S. Spencer, a leprosy researcher at Colorado State University who has worked there. “People say things like ‘People outside won’t understand what’s wrong with my face,’ ” he said.
Nowadays, he said, most patients are cured before their faces are severely disfigured. Still, he said, he had read a survey in which health experts asked Brazilians whether they would rather have the human immunodeficiency virus or leprosy. Most chose H.I.V. — even though leprosy does not kill, can be cured, and does not make a victim risky to have sex with. “The stigma is that strong,” he said.
Wow. Dr Lewis says he hopes the Brazilian test becomes available in the US so he can test the families of his patients. It takes many antibiotics given over 6 months to a year to cure the disease…these new test provide doctors with more time to could help diagnosis leprosy before permanent nerve damage is done.
I guess my PAD is getting the best of me, I just don’t have the energy to give you more than these…and instead of posting links to more of the same news, give a look at some of the artsy reads below.
With the Academy Awards later tonight, I have two links about film and films.
Hollywood is getting ready to hand out the industry’s most prestigious film awards: the Oscars.
Among the contenders for best documentary is a film directed by an Israeli, and another by a Palestinian.
Both the Israeli The Gatekeepers and Palestinian 5 Broken Cameras tell the same story, but from two quite different perspectives.
Video at the link, and…
Digital is taking over Hollywood, but celluloid’s fans intend to fight on
They are some of the most powerful people in one of the most powerful entertainment industries in the world. And when Hollywood’s grandest gather at tonight’s Oscars there will be no end of smiles and handshakes. But they are also fans, and like all fans, they are given to apparently arcane squabbles. The latest is whether films should be shot on, well, film.
Some of the most successful directors, such as James Cameron and George Lucas, are so obsessed with having the best special effects that they have spent millions embracing computer-generated imagery and abandoned 35mm film. Others, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are wedded to traditional celluloid, which is becoming the film equivalent of the vinyl record.
Epics such as Les Misérables and Lincoln – both shot on 35mm – and digital creations such as Life of Pi have all made millions at the box office. While film buffs may talk about the “feel” of film, with all its subtleties, the reality is that pixilated perfection is winning – the whirring of 35mm film projectors silenced by the hum of digital machines.
Just take a look at the films nominated for best picture:
Although many love a sharp, digital picture with high definition, others prefer something a bit less “real”. The split among directors is highlighted in the nominations for Best Picture. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were shot on film. While Argo, Amour, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty were shot on digital. As was The Hobbit nominated in three technical Oscar categories.
David O Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, said: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m superstitious, maybe I’m romantic – I love film and it has a magic quality, it has a warmth. I may use digital cameras in a pinch because they are small and fast but I like film for its humaneness.” He is one of a number of directors determined to continue shooting on 35mm. Another is Nolan, who made the Dark Knight trilogy: “I am now constantly asked to justify why I want to shoot a film on film,” he said. Nolan likens digital to an “amazing” cookie until you realise “this is some horrible chemical crap that’s giving you this bad illusion that fools you at first.”
You can read more about what actors, cinematographers and directors think about digital vs film at the link up top. I tend to agree with the folks who love film…and think that digital sucks.
Another archaic form of technology that gets lost in this day in age is the typewriter. Take this woman’s use of the typewriter:
As romantic as the idea of working on a typewriter now seems, in reality they’re rather clunky and temperamental things. Writing with one would probably take us an age – and if we made a mistake? Well, forget it.
So imagine trying to draw with one.
London based artist Keira Rathbone, originally from Dorset, does exactly that; clustering together marks made by letters, numbers and symbols, to make brilliant, one-off images.
The English artist clusters letters, numbers and symbols from a typewriter keyboard to composite images; from portraits of friends and celebrities to landscapes and still life. A closer look at what looks like a sketch of Wimborne Minster, a church in East Dorset, England, reveals swirls of ampersands and the ticks of quotations marks.
Watch the video below to see the artist at work, and click through the slideshow to see examples of her typewriter art. Visit keirarathbone.com for more examples of her work.
Be sure to take a look at the pictures, Rathone’s art is impressive…
Another obsolete form of technology is shown below…Keypunch Orchestra: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive
June 1937. “Baltimore, Maryland. For every Social Security account number issued an ‘employee master card’ is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank form SS-5, is transferred to this master card in the form of upended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows records office workers punching master cards on key punch machines.” Whew. Longest caption ever? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
That is all I have for you this morning. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, see ya later on tonight…should be quite a show.
So what are you all reading and blogging about today?
I thought I’d go light on politics in today’s post. I’ve got a collection of interesting links on varied topics. I hope you’ll find something to your taste.
I’ll begin with some true crime stories.
LA County’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran has completed a review of actress Natalie Wood’s autopsy report and has concluded that she was very likely assaulted before her death and was probably unconscious when she went into the water, indicating that her death is now considered “suspicious.” CBS News reports:
The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office released a new report (pdf) Monday. Sources tell CBS News the review of the original coroner’s report in 1981 raises questions about every major finding that led investigators to originally conclude Natalie Wood’s death an accident. Sources say the report concludes that the bruising on the actress’ wrists, knees, and ankles could be more consistent with injuries from an assault than they were from struggling to climb back on a boat.
Wood died on November 28, 1981, when according to her husband, actor Robert Wagner, she fell off their yacht, the 60-foot-long Splendour, possibly while trying to re-tie a dinghy that had been banging against the side of the boat, disturbing her sleep.
Her body was found hours later floating in the waters off Catalina Island.
Wood’s death was ruled an accidental drowning. But in 2011, Los Angeles Sheriff’s detectives re-opened the case after the skipper of the boat, Dennis Davern, co-authored a book in which he gave a very different account of what happened that night. Davern said, “I believe Robert Wagner was with her right up until the moment she was in the water.”
According to Davern, Wagner asked him not to tell investigators what had happened, but years later he regrets contributing to a “cover-up.”
However, according to CNN the county Sheriff says that Wagner is not a suspect. CNN provides two alternative descriptions of the events leading up to Wood’s disappearance from the yacht.
Davern offered a previously unreported account of how Wood’s death was reported, saying that Wagner waited hours to call the Coast Guard after Wood went missing off Catalina Island following an argument between the couple….
Wood and Wagner married in 1957, divorced in 1962, then remarried in 1972. They invited Wood’s “Brainstorm” co-star, Christopher Walken, to join them on the Thanksgiving weekend sail that preceded her death….
After Wagner then argued with Walken and broke a wine bottle, Wood left in disgust and went to her stateroom, Davern told CNN. Walken also retired to a guest room, Davern added, and Wagner followed his wife to their room. A few minutes later, Davern said, he could hear the couple fighting.
Embarrassed, Davern said, he turned up the volume on his stereo. At one point, Davern recalled, he glanced out of the pilot house window and saw Wagner and Wood on the yacht’s aft deck. “They’d moved their fight outside … you could tell from their animated gestures they were still arguing,” he said.
A short time later, Wagner, appearing to be distraught, told Davern he couldn’t find Wood. Davern searched the boat but couldn’t find her. He noticed the rubber dinghy also was missing.
Wagner claims that Wood went to her room and he didn’t follow her, but sat on deck having drinks with Walken before noticing that his wife was missing.
I’m sure you remember the story of the 10-year-old boy who shot his Neo-Nazi father, Jeff Hall, after years of abuse. I’ve written a couple of posts about it. Well, today the boy was “found responsible” for the death.
A Riverside County judge on Monday found a 12-year-old boy guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting and killing of his father, neo-Nazi activist Jeffrey Hall, as he slept on the family’s living room couch.
He also was found guilty of a weapons charge, with the judge determining he knew right from wrong.
This kid was 10 years old! Children that young simply cannot understand the consequences of their actions in the same sense as adults can. Yet he was found guilty of second degree murder.
Public Defender Matthew Hardy focused on the boy’s abusive home life, where gunplay and neo-Nazi gatherings were commonplace. Witnesses testified that Hall beat his son repeatedly, often in drunken or drug-addled rages.
Social workers responded to the Hall household more than 20 times. At the time of the shooting, the boy was a dependent of the court, an effort designed in part to shield him from further abuse, Hardy said.
Clinical psychologist Anna Salter, a mental health expert called by the prosecution, testified that the boy’s birth mother used heroin, LSD and other drugs while she was pregnant, which she called
“devastating” to the boy’s development. The boy also has an extensive history of violence dating to when he was 3. In school, he once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord, she said.
The judge acknowledged that years of abuse and exposure to hate-filled Neo-Nazi philosophy had led to the child killing his father. Yet at the same time the judge used the child’s exposure to violence and hate to claim that this boy was mentally more mature than other 10-year-olds.
The youngster, who was 10 when he put a gun to his sleeping father’s head and pulled the trigger, was charged as a juvenile. He could be held in juvenile detention until he is 23.
The boy’s father, Jeffrey Hall, was a West Coast leader for the neo-Nazi organization known as the National Socialist Movement. He was asleep on a couch in the early morning hours of May 1, 2011, when his son crept downstairs with Hall’s .357 magnum revolver and shot his father point-blank in the head.
The judge said Hall’s attempts to indoctrinate his son into the hate group corrupted the thought process of a disturbed boy who already had displayed violent tendencies.
“It’s clear that this minor knows more than the average child about guns, hate and violence,’’ Leonard said.
Still, she added, “this is not a naive little boy unaware of the ways of the world.’’
It’s outrageous. Putting a 12-year-old boy in a facility with older boys who are already hardened criminals will erase any chance this boy has for a decent future.
One more crime story…another person is claiming to know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.
An aging mobster who was once a high-ranking member of Detroit’s La Cosa Nostra organized crime family reportedly knows where labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa is buried.
NBC 4 New York reports that Tony Zerilli, 85, said Hoffa was buried in a field in suburban Detroit, about 20 miles north of the restaurant where he was last seen in July 1975.
“All this speculation about where he is and he’s not,” Zerilli told the station. “They say he was in a meat grinder. It’s all baloney.”
Zerilli said Hoffa’s final resting place is in a field in Michigan’s northern Oakland County. He was buried in a shallow grave and the plan was to move the body at another time, but Hoffa’s remains were never moved from the first spot where they were buried, he said.
I suppose the police will have to go dig up the field and try to find poor old Jimmy Hoffa’s bones…
Since I’ve been struggling with a horrible cold plus a case of norovirus, I decided to check out the health news. I’ll bet you didn’t know that a bad cough will last around 18 days no matter what you do to treat it. According to Mark Ebell, associate professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, recently did a study to compare public attitudes with actual facts about viral illnesses.
A new study shows that although most people think a cough ought to last no more than a week or so, the duration of the most annoying symptom of winter illness is about 18 days — and could be more than three weeks.
Taking antibiotics in the interim is not only ineffective, it could also prompt dangerous side effects — and contribute to the country’s growing problem with bugs becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat them.
“A lot of times patients will come to me and they’ve been coughing for four or five days and they’re not getting any better, so they ask for an antibiotic,” he said. “After eight or nine days, they’re still not feeling better, so they ask for an even stronger antibiotic. Then they’ll say, ‘The only thing that really works for me is this really strong antibiotic.’”
The trouble is, antibiotics aren’t actually the solution for most of the 3 million outpatient cases in the U.S. each year in which cough is the chief complaint, or for the more than 4.5 million outpatient cases diagnosed as acute bronchitis or bronchiolitis. More than 90 percent of such cases are viral, not bacterial, which means they won’t respond to the drugs most folks request, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I love berries, so I found this story interesting: Berries Ward Off MI in Women. MI stands for Myocardial infarction, basically a heart attack.
Young and middle-age women whose diet included high levels of anthocyanins — the flavonoids present in red and blue fruits such as strawberries and blueberries — had a significantly reduced risk for myocardial infarction (MI), a large prospective study found.
Women whose anthocyanin intake was in the highest quintile had a 32% decrease in risk of MI during 18 years of follow-up (HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.96, P=0.03), according to Eric B. Rimm, ScD, of Harvard University, and colleagues.
And in a food-based analysis, women who consumed more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries each week showed a trend towards a lower MI risk, with a 34% decrease (HR 0.66, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.08, P=0.09) compared with women who rarely included these fruits in their diet, the researchers reported online in Circulation.
“Growing evidence supports the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on endothelial function and blood pressure, suggesting that flavonoids might be more likely than other dietary factors to lower the risk of [coronary heart disease] in predominantly young women,” they observed.
For years, researchers didn’t bother to study heart disease in women; but in recent years it has become clear that women and men differ in how heart attacks are experienced. Perhaps what we need to do for prevention differs from men too.
Here’s a science story that Dakinikat may find interesting in relation to her fascination with ancient graves and burial rites: DNA Test Sheds Light on Mystery Deaths.
A new DNA test can restore at least part of the identity of long-dead people who left no trace of their image, scientists reported on Monday.
The technique has revealed the hair and eye colours of unknown individuals slaughtered as sub-humans by the Nazis and of a mystery woman buried alongside monks in a mediaeval crypt, they said.
“This system can be used to solve historical controversies where colour photographs or other records are missing,” said Wojciech Branicki from Poland’s Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow.
Here’s one example:
Reporting in the journal Investigative Genetics, the researchers first tested it on a tooth taken from the remains of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who led Poland’s government-in-exile in Britain in World War II before dying in a plane crash in 1943.
Sikorski’s body was disinterred from a cemetery in Newark, England, in 1993 for reburial in pomp in Krakow, but was exhumed once more in 2008 for further examination to sound out a theory that he had been poisoned, shot or strangled.
Analysis of the genetic code from the tooth gave a 99-percent likelihood that Sikorski had blue eyes, and an 85-percent likelihood that he had blond hair.
Both tallied with contemporary descriptions of Sikorski and with paintings of him made many years after his death (no colour photographs of him are known to exist).
I’m running out of space, but I have a few political reads for you that I’ll post link dump style.
Allyssa Rosenberg at The New Republic: FX is Feminism for Men. Seriously, take a look at this one!
Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?
I have a nasty cold, so if I don’t make a lot of sense this morning, please try to make allowances. I just hope I don’t get the flu. Mayor Menino declared a public health emergency in Boston yesterday because there have been 700 confirmed cases of flu in the city. This morning The Daily Beast reports that there is a “major influenza epidemic taking hold across the country.”
New York City and much of the U.S. are a week or two into a major influenza epidemic. Boston declared a public-health emergency Wednesday after reporting four deaths, and North Carolina is seeing its biggest number of cases in a decade. To place the problem into graphic, corporate terms, the charts sent around to compare this year’s activity against that of other years have required re-scaling to accommodate the scary red line going up and up.
Public health officials are telling people it’s not too late to get a flu shot, but according to this article, this year’s vaccine may not be working so well.
One alarming possibility is that this year’s vaccine against influenza is not well-matched to the current disease-causing strains. This exposes a significant problem in the modus operandi of influenza vaccine production—it’s mired in techniques and approaches developed before World War II; in fact soldiers from that war were among the first to get this brand of vaccine. Here’s how it works: each year, around February, world experts select from a menu of dozens just three influenza strains—two of flu A andone of flu B—to place into the coming season’s vaccine. More than three would require a shot with too large a volume and might blunt the body’s immune response. Once selected, the three viruses are grown painstakingly, on hen’s eggs (what year is this?) then, after a big enough crop has been raised, the virus is killed and stabilized and sent around for injections—all on the hope that the experts guessed right.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found strong agreement between the vaccine strains and the current clinical strains, suggesting the vaccine ought to work just fine. But some clinicians have their doubts. This much activity, is the thinking, can only be due to extremely limited protection from vaccine. For some, it feels like 2009 all over again, when the novel flu strain, so-called because it had never previously been seen in people or animals, appeared. That was the year that spring-break revelers from Queens who had gone south of the border brought back an altogether new strain. Because of its novelty, no vaccine was active against it (at least at the start), so we saw the unchecked spread of influenza zipping across the country in no time flat.
So is that happening again? We won’t know until there is more testing of this year’s strains.
President Obama is getting a lot of criticism for turning his “inner circle” into a “boy’s club.” From Tuesday’s NYT:
In an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 29, 11 of President Obama’s top advisers stood before him discussing the heated fiscal negotiations. The 10 visible in a White House photo are men.
In the days since, Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama’s inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.
From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.
The skew was widespread: male appointees under Mr. Obama outnumbered female appointees at 11 of the 15 federal departments, for instance. In some cases, the skew was also deep. At the Departments of Justice, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Energy, male appointees outnumbered female appointees by about two to one.
At Salon, Irin Carmon writes:
Diversity in any sense is something that doesn’t really happen unless you try, and if the Obama administration is trying with its top-level appointments, other priorities have clearly trumped it. This doesn’t have to be because of a conspiracy: A lifetime of seeing almost exclusively white men as authority figures has a way of perpetuating itself, and without much self-examination or effort, people tend to go with a certain comfortable framework. (This is true despite the president being a black man; as anyone who has worked for a woman or a person of color who was the first to stake out a spot on hostile turf can tell you, racism and sexism aren’t exclusively white male phenomena.) But it’s still a problem that needs to be talked about, over and over again, until something changes.
Carmon concludes her post with some excellent questions:
…leadership matters, and here we are with this top-level lineup of too-familiar faces. Hillary Clinton is gone, and we don’t have Sheila Bair, Michele Flournoy or Susan Rice (a pretty good selection given that “pipeline problem”) and another white man is expected to succeed Jack Lew as chief of staff should be become the treasury secretary. The numbers look even worse now that Hilda Solis, a Latina woman, has resigned as secretary of labor.
So here are some follow-up questions: Will John Kerry carry on the legacy of Hillary Clinton in encouraging female leadership and entrepreneurship around the world? Will Chuck Hagel, if confirmed as secretary of defense, fully and fairly implement the progressive changes in the military the administration supports, including the partial expansion of abortion access for service-members and dependents, despite his past opposition? How independent will Lew be from the Wall Street boys’ club’s values and logic? And how will the administration do better on this stuff next time, if it does indeed care about it?
At least Eric Holder’s announcement that he is staying on at Attorney General will keep Obama’s cabinet from being made up of only white men.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee announced Tuesday that the President Obama has selected Pastor Louie Giglio of the Georgia-based Passion City Church to deliver the benediction for his second inauguration. In a mid-1990s sermon identified as Giglio’s, available online on a Christian training Web site, he preached rabidly anti-LGBT views. The 54-minute sermon, entitled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality,” advocates for dangerous “ex-gay” therapy for gay and lesbian people, references a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from becoming accepted in society.
Read quotes from Giglio’s sermon at the Alternet link.
Buzzfeed notes that the White House hasn’t yet responded to the criticism of the Gigio choice.
The White House on Wednesday was refusing to address comments critical of gay and lesbian people made by Rev. Louie Giglio, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to deliver the benediction prayer at the Jan. 21 inaugural ceremony….
The inaugural invitation is not Giglio’s first interaction with Obama. He also was one of the president’s guests at the White House’s 2012 Easter prayer breakfast, according to the White House pool report from the April 4, 2012 event.
This past November, Giglio served as the convocation speaker at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Although he did not address homosexuality in the speech, he did strongly urge visiting high-school students to attend the college known for its strict policies against homosexual behavior and spoke about the positive influence Falwell has had on his life.
While Giglio did not talk about gay issues directly, he did reference gender roles in a striking way, speaking of a time he started crying very hard. He explained, “I started bawling, I mean, sobbing. Not crying like men cry. I started crying like women cry.” Continuing, he explained what he called the unwritten rules for men who cry, telling the students, “A man never looks at another man that’s crying. That’s the rule.”
If you’ve been watching the Rachel Maddow show recently, you’ve heard about the Shell Oil rig that went aground in Alaska last week. Connie from Orlando sent me a couple of links on Rachel’s interview with Rep. Ed Markey last night on Shell’s lies. From the Maddow Blog: One man’s near miss ecological disaster is another man’s swells. Watch the video here.
Paul Ryan is up to his old tricks. From Laura Bassett at HuffPo: Paul Ryan Cosponsors New Fetal Personhood Bill.
Despite the deep unpopularity of fetal personhood bills in 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has again decided to cosponsor the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that gives full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization.
Ryan, who reportedly has 2016 presidential ambitions, had to de-emphasize his opposition to abortion without exceptions during the 2012 election to align his position with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But this year, Ryan has been tapped as a keynote speaker for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s sixth annual Campaign for Life Gala, and he is re-upping his support for the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the country.
The personhood bill, first introduced in 2011 by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and reintroduced by Broun last week, specifies that a “one-celled human embryo,” even before it implants in the uterus to create a pregnancy, should be granted “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” Similar legislation has been rejected by voters in multiple states, including the socially conservative Mississippi, because legal experts have pointed out that it could outlaw some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization as well as criminalize abortion at all stages.
Broun said in a statement that a zygote’s right to life should be “defended vigorously and at all costs.”
“As a physician, I know that human life begins with fertilization, and I remain committed to ending abortion in all stages of pregnancy,” he said. “I will continue to fight this atrocity on behalf of the unborn, and I hope my colleagues will support me in doing so.”
Of course Republican governors are still trying to limit access to abortion, and the Center for Reproductive Rights has designed a “monitoring tool” that can be downloaded to track what’s happening in the states.
The tool outlines State obligations under international and regional human rights law on a range of reproductive rights issues—freedom from discrimination, contraceptive information and services, safe pregnancy and childbirth, abortion and post-abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, freedom from violence against women, and HIV/AIDS. The tool then identifies key questions that human rights experts, monitoring bodies, and civil society can use to assess to what extent a State is in compliance with its obligations.
I want to end with something more positive from Emily Esfahani-Smith at The Atlantic about the differences between the pursuit of happiness and the search for meaning: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. It’s about Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. I highly recommend it.
And here’s something nice: and unreleased track from Jimi Hendrix, recorded in the late 1960s.
Have a great day, and please share your recommended reads in the comments!
Still feeling down in the dumps today, so forgive the sparse content. Hopefully these links are not repeats…
I have not had a chance to read this first link…yet. Kurt Eichenwald: Let’s Repeal the Second Amendment | Vanity Fair
Haven’t read this one either: 6 Biggest Religious Right Threats to America | Alternet
Something on gun control: Muhlberger’s World History: The Bonfire of the Vanities
Check out these official pictures from the White House 2012:
A few science articles:
This first link needs a bit of funk to make it right:
If you have what James Brown likes…then you may also suffer from Fatty Liver.
One thing that can help with this next link about Fatty Liver, is to get a little more active:
For Dakinikat…it isn’t about old grave discoveries, but it still has a touch of death to it: Dried squash holds headless French king’s blood, study finds
Another one for Dak, Maya Funerary Vessel Represents “Tremor 8” – Archaeology Magazine
For Boston Boomer, you may find this interesting: Language Acquisition Could Begin In The Womb | Geekosystem
Is it a man’s world? Now for some mood music, for the next few links about Women’s Rights and Women in History:
Annie Lennox has a blog she writes at: Annie Lennox Calls For Action On Women’s Rights In 2013 – Starpulse.com
Here is direct link to it: Annie Lennox – Official Website
Maybe Women’s Rights will have a louder voice now: 101 Facts About 100 Women of the House and Senate
History looks at Viking Women: Don’t underestimate Viking women | Medieval News
Another one on religion, and women’s influence in culture: Research uncovers how single and widowed women shaped the religious culture of colonial Latin America
Sick twisted doctors…10 Derailed Doctors Who Creatively Abused Their Patients
An iconic song turns 30: ‘Billie Jean’: Michael Jackson’s landmark single turns 30 | theGrio
Video of a big ass plane landing at a tiny airport.
Video of the same big ass plane taking off from a tiny airport.
Video of a cartoon we have all seen before, but should watch again.
A few movie reviews:
This Amanda Marcotte review of Django Unchained is good, she gets it: Django Unchained: A Movie About Other Movies About the 19th Century
And…another review…about Django…only this one asks the wrong question: How Accurate Is Quentin Tarantino’s Portrayal of Slavery in Django Unchained? : The New Yorker
Sticking with the movie topic a bit more: alicublog: I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES.
Now for an actor who is Super Bad, and one of my favorites, bet you can guess who that is?
An interview with my man: Samuel L. Jackson is right about bad Hollywood endings, but then real life isn’t much better
I wonder if this film will be made in time for the 2016 campaign season: Tennessee Guerilla Women: Hillary Clinton’s Life, Soon to Be a Hollywood Movie
And…its a squatch! One of those elusive Georgia Redneck Big Foots! Yup, a few of them are getting together to talk about another kind of Bigfoot…Inaugural Southeastern Bigfoot Conference being held in Dahlonega
More fantastic Bigfoot reads:
Bigfoot or Good Foot you decide:
Have a fantastic Sunday…and hope everyone is feeling good!