I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of bad news. I’ve completely stopped watching TV and listening to radio news, because I just can’t take any more details of wars, plane crashes, dead children. If it weren’t for writing these morning posts, I wouldn’t have a clue what’s happening. I get all my news from Google, Twitter, and various blogs, including Sky Dancing. So I’m going to quickly link to the major stories topping Google this morning, and then I’ll post some interesting longer reads that I came across around the ‘net.
There’s a 12-hour cease fire in Gaza right now. BBC News has extensive coverage, Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900.
Residents in Gaza are using a 12-hour humanitarian truce to return to their homes, gather essential supplies and search for those trapped in the rubble.
At least 85 bodies have been pulled from the rubble during the truce, a Palestinian health official says.
That raises the Palestinian death toll to 985 since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on 8 July, the spokesman said. Thirty-nine Israelis have died.
International talks on a longer truce have resumed in Paris.
Israel said it would continue to “locate and neutralise” Hamas tunnels during the pause, which began at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
So far 31 tunnels have been discovered, with about half destroyed, Israeli’s military says.
Lots of details and photos at the BBC link.
From AP via The Boston Globe, Gaza Sides Agree to Lull But Truce Efforts Stall.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation ‘‘significantly.’’
Hours after the U.S.-led efforts stalled, the two sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Saturday. However, the temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the Gaza war is spilling over into the West Bank.
In a ‘‘Day of Rage,’’ Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel’s Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. In the West Bank, at least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.
The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.
An op-ed from Al Jazeera, Israel’s war of disproportionate force on Gaza, by Britain Eaken.
The recent killing of four Palestinian children by an Israeli airstrike while they played soccer on a beach in Gaza should call into question Israel’s claim that it’s waging a war of self-defense. Western journalists who saw the attack witnessed firsthand an ugly reality of life in Gaza — Palestinian civilians are too often caught in the crossfire in this tiny, densely populated and besieged coastal strip.
Early Sunday, an Israeli incursion into the Shujayea neighborhood in Gaza killed at least 60 more Palestinians. Most of the injuries being treated at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital belong to civilians suffering from shrapnel injuries and amputations. More than 100 children have been killed so far and the Palestinian death toll just surpassed 400 with more than 3000 injured.
The UN says more than 70 percent of Palestinian casualties are civilians, a marked increase from previous Israeli assaults.
The toll on civilians has raised United Nations’ concerns of the Israeli use of disproportionate force in Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. But the use of disproportionate force and the targeting of civilian infrastructure isn’t a new or surprising tactic for Israel. In fact, it’s a primary strategy according to Gabi Siboni, head of the Military and Strategic Affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. This strategy has a well-documented history in Gaza.
I have no words.
Yes, there’s still fighting in Libya, and the violence is getting so bad than the U.S. has closed and evacuated its embassy there. NPR reports: U.S. Embassy Compound In Libya Shut Down Amid Fighting.
The U.S. has closed its embassy in Libya and evacuated diplomats amid what is being described as a significant deterioration in security, with rival militant factions battling in the capital, Tripoli.
“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”
In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said: “[All] embassy personnel were relocated, including Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy during the movement.”
AP via ABC News: US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes.
The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said….
The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.” ….
“We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region,” Harf said. The evacuated staffers will continue to work on Libya issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.
Ukraine is still roiling, but it seems to have receded into the background for the moment. Here are a few headlines just to keep you current.
From the WaPo editorial board: If the West doesn’t do more for Ukraine now, it might soon be too late.
From the Are You Kidding Me? File
From the LA Times: White House aide says Republicans might impeach Obama over immigration.
Pesident Obama will propose broad-ranging executive action on immigration reform later this summer that could provoke Republicans into trying to impeach him, a senior White House official said Friday.
While details of the immigration plan are still being worked on, it will mark “an important step in the arc of the presidency” that will shape both the substance and politics of immigration policy for years, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
That move is certain to “increase the angry reaction from Republicans” who already accuse Obama of exceeding his executive authority, Pfeiffer said, highlighting recent statements by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in which she backed an impeachment move.
“I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has “opened the door to impeachment” by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority.
Is this just an effort by the White House to put the impeachment question out there so Americans can let the GOP what they think about it? The Hill reports: White House taking impeachment seriously.
Senior White House advisers are taking very seriously the possibility that Republicans in Congress will try to impeach President Obama, especially if he takes executive action to slow deportations.
Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, said Friday that the White House is taking the prospect of impeachment in the GOP-controlled House more seriously than many others in Washington, who see it as unlikely.
Pfeiffer noted that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a large following among Tea Party conservatives, has called for Obama’s impeachment and a large block of the GOP’s base favors it.
“I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying they supported impeaching the president. A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility,” he told reporters Friday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
Pfeiffer said Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to file a lawsuit against Obama over his use of executive actions increased the chance of impeachment proceedings in the future.
A little reality testing from Sean Sullivan at the WaPo: These two numbers show why impeachment talk is trouble for the GOP.
By about 2-1, Americans say they don’t think President Obama should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Friday.
But a majority of Republicans disagree.
That, in a nutshell, is why talk about impeaching the president is nothing but trouble for the GOP heading toward the November midterms.
Sixty-five percent of Americans say Obama should not be impeached, compared to just 33 percent who say he should. Very one-sided. It’s clear that impeachment is a political loser when it comes to the public as a whole.
The “public as a whole” numbers matter because with most of the consequential primaries behind us, Republican candidates in key Senate races — the battle for the Senate is the main midterm event — have to be concerned about playing to broad statewide audiences.
Some (mostly) longer reads
These aren’t all that cheery either, but they are interesting.
This one from the NYT Sunday Magazine is for Dakinikat: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?
Why do people leave their kids in hot cars? How can you forget you’ve got your kid with you? I just don’t get it, and it makes me furious! There’s a long article about these cases at NBC News, Fatal Mistake: What Everyone Should Know About Hot Car Deaths, by Alex Johnson.
This NYT op-ed isn’t a long read, but it’s a useful one: Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth, by Veronica Escobar.
Remember all that talk about how there was going to be some kind of horrible disaster in 2012? Well it turns out that something awful almost happened. From NASA Science News, Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012. If you don’t want to wade through the whole article, The Boston Globe has a shorter summary, Apparently Earth ‘Just Missed’ a Solar Superstorm in 2012.
Finally, something entertaining and not depressing, This Is What Happens When You Ask Contemporary Artists To Reimagine Maps Of The World. Check it out!
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.
I’ve been watching the death of higher education in Louisiana as Sociopathic Governor Jindal continues his war on 99%of humanity in search of higher office. Right wing Donors are the only folks worth subsidizing and saving in Jindal’s sick mind. I was thinking the other day that I was glad that the girls graduated before it’s gotten to this point. Youngest daughter experienced a bit of the issue at the end of her undergrad degree since class offerings were decreasing. I’ve also been thinking about the Duquesne adjunct professor who died last year in abject poverty. I think that I’ve most likely seen my future. Here’s a refresher about her death last August.
On Friday, Aug. 16, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct French professor who’d recently lost her job at Duquesne University at the age of 83, suffered a cardiac arrest on a street corner in Homestead, Pa.* Vojtko collapsed yards from the house where she had lived almost her entire life. She was rushed to the hospital, but she never regained consciousness. Vojtko died on Sunday, Sept. 1.
Two and a half weeks later, Vojtko’s lawyer, Daniel Kovalik, published an op-ed about Vojtko called “Death of an Adjunct” in thePittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kovalik wrote that “unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits, and with a salary of $3,000 to $3,500 per three-credit course.” (In fact, for many years, she’d earned less—only $2,556 per course.) She’d been receiving cancer treatment, he said, and she’d become essentially homeless over the winter because she couldn’t afford to maintain and heat her house. Then, in the spring, she’d been told that her contract wouldn’t be extended after the current semester. A social worker from a local government agency had been tipped off that she might need help taking care of herself, which horrified Vojtko—“For a proud professional like Margaret Mary, this was the last straw,” according to the op-ed.
Her recent life hits way too close to home for me. I’ve noticed the rise of administration in higher education and how they seem to be embracing the same kind of things that are wrecking secondary education. They want standardized testing and proof that the professor is doing their job to the point that I feel like I’m a lowly graduate student with an absentee professor. I spend a lot of time grading things that I’m pretty sure are not contributing to anything but some administrator’s report that justifies their high salary and position. I can also tell that many colleagues just do it arbitrarily and not too well because my students are obviously doing the same old things like recycling other people’s homework and other people’s papers. I remind you that I only teach graduate students and those at the end of their career and those doing an academic degree that should be tougher than something like an MBA. So, all of this leads up to this link from a speech by Noam Chomsky who relates the hiring of faculty to that of the Walmart hiring paradigm. Faculty are basically now mostly temps. Business like workers who live in fear and insecurity. They also like them exhausted.
That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Wal-Mart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.
This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.
Also part of the business model is making sure you’re as miserable as possible and that your assigned management baby sitter loads you down with so much nonsense that even when you don’t have anything productive to do, you have to pretend you are. Chomsky sums up the goal of all this.
Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways. One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It’s a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can’t get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default. That’s a disciplinary technique. I don’t say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect. And it’s hard to argue that there’s any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let’s say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it’s free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it’s free. In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free. Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today’s dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn’t cost you anything. Now it’s outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it’s almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.
And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control. And it’s very similar to what you’d expect in a factory, where factory workers have to be disciplined, to be obedient; they’re not supposed to play a role in, say, organizing production or determining how the workplace functions—that’s the job of management. This is now carried over to the universities. And I think it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has any experience in private enterprise, in industry; that’s the way they work.
The Corporate apparatchik are the only ones that gain from a workforce that behave and think like sheep. There are so many examples of intellectual laziness these days on the part of so-called professionals that I could spend a weeks worth of posts on it. But, let’s just start with a few recent ones. Ever read BuzzFeed? Well, it seems one editor lifted material from Yahoo. I wonder who taught him that Yahoo is an appropriate source?
Yahoo! Answers, one of the great artifacts of Internet history, is intently studied at viral news website BuzzFeed, where its trove of half-literate questions (and even less literate answers) has supplied material for at least fifty different posts and listicles. One BuzzFeed editor, however, has streamlined this aggregation process to its vanishing point: Simply copying text from Yahoo! Answers and pasting it, without attribution, into his own work.
Two pseudonymous Twitter users pointed out today that BuzzFeed’s Viral Politics editor, Benny Johnson, has periodically lifted text from a variety of sources—Wikipedia, U.S. News & World Report, a random press release—all without credit. The users, @blippoblappo and@crushingbort, supply convincing evidence that Johnson slightly reworded various sentences to make them his own.
I struggle daily with telling students that none of those sites are appropriate sources. But, under the pressure of grading deadlines and having to give them tons of busy work, it sure is tempting just to throw my hands up and pass so that I can spend less time and maybe approach the minimum wage.
The funny thing is that the costs of higher education focused on by the press are cost of tenured faculty. What they don’t seem to understand is that a lot of faculty–especially those in the really low paying subject areas–generally run to administrative jobs for wages. A lot of the money is also going to fancy dorms, student centers, and leather chair laden classrooms for executives so the university can attract the cash cow students. I really don’t think people–like whoever wrote this article in The Economist--actually look at where the money goes. They believe that online education is going to be the norm in the future.
In the meantime, a second generation of MOOC is trying to mirror courses offered at traditional universities. Georgia Institute of Technology and Udacity have joined forces with AT&T, a telecoms firm, to create an online master’s degree in computing for $7,000, to run in parallel with a similar campus-based qualification that costs around $25,000. Mona Mourshead, who runs McKinsey’s education consultancy, sees a turning point. “If employers accept this on equal terms, the MOOC master’s degree will have taken off. Others will surely follow,” she says.
Although some companies have authored online courses (Google, for instance, has made a MOOC on how to interpret data), established universities still create most of them. To encourage them to spare their best academics’ time to put the courses together, online-learning companies must give them a financial incentive. EdX says it is “self-sustaining” but provides no details of its revenues. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last year that edX lets universities use its platform in return for the first $50,000 generated by the course, plus a cut of future revenues. An alternative model that it reportedly offers is to charge $250,000 for “production assistance” in creating a course, plus further fees every term that the course is offered. Coursera reveals only its revenue from certification—around $4m since its launch in 2012—for which it charges students between $30 and $100.
Some have struggled to make a business out of this. Last year Udacity underwent an abrupt “pivot”, declaring that the free model was not working and that from then on it would sell professional online training. Although web-based courses are much cheaper than on-campus ones, they will not retain ambitious students unless they replicate the interaction available in good universities. Making teachers available for digital seminars and increasing the level of interactivity could help. So would more detailed online feedback. Improvements like these raise costs. So a more varied MOOC-ecology might end up with varying price-tiers, ranging from a basic free model to more expensive bespoke ones.
The universities least likely to lose out to online competitors are elite institutions with established reputations and low student-to-tutor ratios. That is good news for the Ivy League, Oxbridge and co, which offer networking opportunities to students alongside a degree. Students at universities just below Ivy League level are more sensitive to the rising cost of degrees, because the return on investment is smaller. Those colleges might profit from expanding the ratio of online learning to classroom teaching, lowering their costs while still offering the prize of a college education conducted partly on campus.
Notice that last suggestion still says that the cost of the professor is the problem not all the supporting infrastructure and bureaucracy.
The problem that I have with all this is the underlying assumption that the private, corporate business model is efficient, effective, and lower cost. The deal is that most of the lower costs come from de-professionalizing almost all employees in the hierarchy and de-emphasizing personal service. Everything is consolidated away from service provision.
Anyway, I doubt I’ll visit this topic again anytime soon, but I did want to offer up the nightmare that’s become a university teaching job. I have to say I get ready to get my social security more and more every day. This is no longer the stuff written about in Wallace Stegner and John Updike books. I’ve started to feel like an overworked and insecure cog in a wheel over which I have no control. Yup, that’s the stench of American Business.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Another missing plane story tops the news right now. This time it’s an Algerian that has disappeared in Mali. According to the Wall Street Journal: Air Algérie Flight Reported Missing With 116 on Board.
Air Algérie lost contact with Flight 5017 after takeoff from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, as the jetliner headed to Algiers with 116 people on board, Algeria’s state news agency and the plane’s operator said Thursday.
French Secretary of Transport Frédéric Cuvillier told reporters the plane disappeared over Northern Mali, where Islamist militants are fighting the Malian government and French forces. Numerous French nationals were probably aboard the missing plane, Mr. Cuvillier said.
Contact with the Boeing Co. BA -0.95%MD-83, carrying 110 passengers and six crew members, was lost at about 1:55 a.m. local time, 50 minutes after the jet had taken off, the Algerian government’s official news agency said in a statement. “Air Algérie launched [an] emergency plan,” the agency added. It gave no other details.
An official at the directorate of Ouagadougou Airport said there had been an incident, “but for the moment we don’t know anything more.” He refused to give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.
Was this plane shot down like Malasian Airlines Flight MH17 in Ukraine?
The flight path of the missing Algerian jet isn’t yet clear but the FAA has warned airlines to be extra vigilant when flying over Mali.
There is no indication the jet was shot down and no confirmation of a crash.
Still, amid questions by airline executives and regulators over whether MH17 should have been flying over eastern Ukraine, the Air Algérie jet’s flight path will be closely scrutinized.
The FAA has banned U.S. carriers of flying over Mali at lower altitudes. The FAA cited “insurgent activity,” including the threat of antiaircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and rockets. Apart from worries about insurgent threats in Mali, the Algerian government has been keeping a close watch on airspace on its eastern border, where violence in Libya has led to flight bans there.
The missing plane was owned by Swiftair, a Spanish charter company. NBC News reports: Air Algerie Jet Chartered by Spain’s Swiftair Vanishes in Africa.
Air Algerie Flight AH5017 vanished about 50 minutes after it left Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, according to the Algerian Press Service. The jet took off at 1:17 a.m. local time (9:17 p.m. ET on Wednesday) bound for Algiers, Algeria.In a statement, Madrid-based Swiftair confirmed it had chartered the missing McDonnell Douglas MD-83. Swiftair said 110 passengers and six crew were aboard the jet. It had been due to land in the Algerian capital at 5:10 a.m. local time (12:10 a.m. ET). The flight was missing for hours before the news was made public….Issa Saly Maiga, the head of Mali’s National Civil Aviation Agency, told Reuters that a search was under way for the missing flight. “We do not know if the plane is Malian territory,” he added. “Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned – Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain.”
Updates on Malaysian Airlines MH17
“We thought we were going to fight but instead we found dead civilians”“We thought we would have to fight baled out Ukrainian pilots but instead we found dead civilians. All those poor people with baggage that certainly wasn’t military”. We spoke to a militiaman from the Oplot (stronghold) combat unit at midday yesterday on the concrete platforms of Torez railway station. He was standing beside five rail wagons – four refrigerated and the fifth with the refrigeration unit’s diesel geneerators – containing the human remains collected among the sunflower fields in pro-Russian separatist-held Ukraine. His words are revealing because he spoke them quite naturally, without reflecting, after telling us about the international representatives’ recently completed inspection of the bodies and his unit’s orders to stand guard over the wagons. In its innocence and simplicity, the story is significant. In fact, it could provide new evidence for those who blame the pro-Russians for mistakenly launching the fatal missile under the impression that their target was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
A top rebel commander in eastern Ukraine has reportedly said that the armed separatist movement had control of a Buk missile system, which Kiev and western countries say was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane last week.
Alexander Khodakovsky, who leads the Vostok battalion – one of the main rebel formations – said the rebels may have received the Buk from Russia, in the first such admission by a senior separatist.
“That Buk I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence,” Khodakovsky told Reuters.
Russian news agencies later said people close to Khodakovsky denied he made the admissions. Khodakovsky himself told Life News, a Russian news agency with links to Moscow’s security services, that he was misquoted and had merely discussed “possible versions” with Reuters. Khodakovsky said the rebels “do not have and have never had” a Buk.
As two further Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down, apparently by missiles fired from within Russia, Khodakovsky appeared to imply that MH17 was indeed downed by a missile from the Buk, assuming the interview with Reuters is confirmed. He blamed Ukrainian authorities, however, for allowing civilian jets to fly over its airspace when the rebels had such capabilities.
Mr Borodai admitted that the rebels had received support from “the whole Russian people” in their fight against the Ukrainian government.
“Volunteers are joining us,” he told the Newsnight programme, describing himself as one of them – “a resident of the city of Moscow”.
“It just so happened that, instead of sitting in a trench with a rifle or a machine gun, I now have the post of prime minister. Well… that’s fate.”
He denied that he was a member of a Russian intelligence agency, as has often been alleged.
However, he admitted to having contact with other members of the secret services in Russia – as, he said, would anyone “who has dealings with the elite of society”.
On the treatment of the bodies,
“We wanted to collect the bodies from the very beginning,” said Mr Borodai.
“But we were under extreme pressure from the OSCE representative, who said to us: ‘I represent 57 countries. Don’t you dare touch the bodies of the dead. Under no circumstances. Or else all the 57 countries of the OSCE will do this and that to you.’”
“So we wait a day. We wait a second day. A third day. Come on! Not a single expert…. Well, to leave the bodies there any longer, in 30C heat, it’s absurd. It’s simply inhuman. It’s a scene from a horror movie.”
However, an OSCE spokesman told the BBC that the organisation had not warned the rebels against moving the bodies.
More obfuscation at the link. Thank goodness the bodies are now being returned to the Netherlands.
Do Dogs Experience Emotions?
There’s a story in The New York Times about research on dogs and emotions with a somewhat cutsie headline and introduction, Inside Man’s Best Friend, Study Says, May Lurk a Green-Eyed Monster. Do dogs experience jealousy?
The answer, according to Christine Harris, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, is that if you are petting another dog, Roscoe is going to show something that Dr. Harris thinks is a form of jealousy, even if not as complex and twisted as the adult human form.
Other scientists agree there is something going on, but not all are convinced it is jealousy. And Roscoe and the rest of his tribe were, without exception, unavailable for comment.
Dr. Harris had been studying human jealousy for years when she took this question on, inspired partly by the antics of her parents’ Border collies. When she petted them, “one would take his head and knock the other’s head away,” she said. It certainly looked like jealousy.
But having studied humans, she was aware of different schools of thought about jealousy. Some scientists argue that jealousy requires complex thinking about self and others, which seems beyond dogs’ abilities. Others think that although our descriptions of jealousy are complex, the emotion itself may not be that complex.
Read more, including reactions from other scientists at the NYT.
Another researcher, Greg Berns of Emory University, has been examining the question of how dogs think and how they relate to humans.
“The more I study dogs and the more I study their brains, the more similarities I see to human brains,” Berns told WGCL-TV. “They are intelligent, they are emotional, and they’ve been ignored in terms of research and understanding how they think. So, we are all interested in trying to develop ways to understand how their minds work.”
Dr. Berns uses an MRI to test a dog’s brain.
“So, we’ve done experiments where we present odors to the dogs and these are things like the scent of other people in their house, the scent of other dogs in the house, as well as strange people and strange dogs,” Berns said. “And so what we found in that experiment is that the dogs reward processing center, so basically the part of the brain that is kind of the positive anticipation of things responds particularly strongly to the scent of their human.” ….
“Currently, we are trying to understand what dogs perceive about the world,” Berns said. “You know, what do they see when they see humans, dogs, other animals, cars, etc. so the idea is, at least in humans and even in certain chimpanzees and monkeys, there are parts of the brain specialized for visual processing of all of these things and so what we are trying to determine is whether a dog has that same kind of specialization.
Here’s Dr. Berns’ home page. He has written a book called How Dogs Love Us.
Anyone who has ever spent time with dogs (or cats for that matter) knows that pets express emotions through body language, facial expressions, and vocalizations; it’s nice to see there are some serious researchers trying to understand their emotions and thinking processes.
A couple more interesting reads . . .
At Talk to Action, the first two-parts of a three-part article on the influence of fundamentalist Catholocism on the Supreme Court by Frank Coccozelli: An Opus Focus on SCOTUS? A brief excerpt:
Beyond the creeping erosion of Roe, there is the disturbing reliance upon traditionalist Catholic teaching on grey area issues, such as a pregnancy endangering the life of the mother. As Justice Ginsburg noted in here dissent:
Today’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.
Where does this leave a Jewish woman whose life is endangered by a pregnancy? By the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Carhart, the Jewish teaching of saving the mother’s life in such circumstances is not respected. Vatican teaching is completely different. Instead it prohibits any abortion procedure that would be required not only if the choice is between the life of the mother and the fetus, but also where if no procedure is performed, a stillborn would result. That is an extreme teaching that many mainstream Catholics reject outright.
At Pando, Yasha Levine has a fascinating story about the bizarre and twisted interactions between the encryption service TOR and its most prominent employee Jacob Applebaum, the Department of Defense, the CIA, Edward Snowden, and Glenn Greenwald, Hall of Mirrors: Wikileaks volunteer helped build Tor, was funded by the Pentagon. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the Snowden story. Also check out Levine’s earlier article, Almost everyone involved in developing Tor was (or is) funded by the US government.
Also for Snowden junkies, Michael Kelley at Business Insider writes about “An 11-Day Hole In Snowden’s Story About Hong Kong.”
Why doesn’t the mainstream media ask any serious questions about Snowden and his closest supporters?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today?
There must be a thing, something beyond denial, that people with all sense and reason experience. Beyond comprehension it seems. Beyond explanation. Even now as I write these words…the mind and heart do not move forward and process the thing I was told last Friday.
“…is HIV Positive, he has had HIV for over 11 years…”
My Uncle. My fabulously “gay” uncle. Who is only 18 months older than me.
HIV for 11 years. No. Why couldn’t he tell me. (He did not tell his sister for the first three years.) He is too smart to be so foolish…he knew to take care of himself. No, we’ve already made it past the late 80s and 90s, he got through that fine. (I suppose.) No. He would never get HIV. I knew the truth. He was my secret super hero….
You see, my uncle was on his way to an emergency room, there was something wrong internally. My Aunt was worried, she had to let me know the whole story.
My Aunt told me this on Friday, even she said her timing was shitty. She felt that it was something he should’ve told me on his own, face to face, but with the emergency situation at hand, she thought it was best I knew everything.
It was during a big lunch that included ten of my kids’ friends…my friend Cindy, my daughter’s boyfriend’s mother (it was our first meeting) and his two younger brothers and the rest of our circus of a family…but I could not react like I wanted to. The boyfriend caught my aunt holding me up near the Honey Baked Ham…he knew something had happened. He told Bebe, but she saw how well I hid everything and didn’t think anything was wrong. When the shit hits the fan as much as it does, you get used to the splatter.
Well, that crowd finally left, and I could act like a normal human being and fucking cry and sob uncontrollably, it still did not seem real to me.
JD could not have HIV, we were beyond the point of concern. I thought he was safe…I mean…The idea that he could even get it was out of the question. To me he was like “Super Fag” (and I don’t mean that in any derogatory way). He was invincible, and impervious to any disease. Like his t-cells had some super human power to withstand any viral attacks from evil outside forces. All he needed was a little super “Fagsuit” with a rainbow cape and a catchy theme song or memorable send off line…
You must understand this. JD is wonderful, funny, talented and loving. He is such a special, good person.
He is still invincible to me because even now I can’t get past this. I cannot process this information. My mother, father, husband….they all said it was something they expected…no surprise.
But for me, it fucking hit me out of nowhere.
How do you describe this feeling? This emotion…I am not in denial. I know that he has HIV. But the words do not register in my brain, and they certainly do not register in my heart.
After a weekend of worry, waiting for a diagnosis, it turns out to be an abdominal abscess. He does not realize how bad this thing really was, he had some special type of IV that pumped the heavy duty antibiotics directly into his aorta. Scary stuff. He went home yesterday evening. I am so thankful for this.
Next step is talking to JD on the phone, he is glad that I know and sorry he did not tell me himself when we saw each other the last time 5 years ago…during my Nana’s memorial. But I can hear the tears in his voice on the message he left me today. What can I say to him? All I want to do is hug him and make him laugh…like he always makes me laugh. I love him so much.
Boston Boomer told me that writing about this might make me feel better, I don’t know, it is all still numbing to me. Don’t take offense to the cartoons, I needed something funny to contrast what my return post was focused on, my humor is a twisted sort of way…but then you all know me so well.
Now for a quick group of links.
Thank you BB and Dak for covering for me these past couple weeks. I love you both so very much. ;)
Jake is still all over the place on his sugar levels, but yesterday he started his first job. I only hope they are more supportive of diabetics than this employer out in California.
Josefina Hernandez worked as a cashier at a California Walgreens store for 18 years. About five years into her tenure, she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a condition she reported to her employer.
In the 13 years that Hernandez worked for Walgreens after being diagnosed with diabetes, Walgreens allowed Hernandez to keep candy nearby in case of low blood sugar, keep her insulin in the break room refrigerator and take additional breaks to test her blood sugar or eat because of her diabetes.
In that 13-year time period, there was only one time when Hernandez asked to take an additional break to eat food because of low blood sugar. Apparently, the accommodations provided by Walgreens were working out just fine.
But then came the famous Chip Theft of 2008.
Hernandez was returning items in a shopping cart to shelves when she noted she was shaking and sweating from low blood sugar. She didn’t have any candy with her and was in the magazine aisle, so she opened a $1.39 bag of potato chips that was in the cart and ate some of them.
After 10 minutes, when she started feeling better, Hernandez said, she went to pay for the chips at the cosmetic counter (where she had been instructed to pay for store items) but no one was there. Hernandez put the potato chips under the counter at her cash register and returned to restocking items. She later paid for the chips when her cashier duties were finished.
Seems reasonable right? However, her manager sounds like he votes Republican.
An assistant store manager spotted the chips and asked whose they were. Hernandez said the chips were hers. The assistant manager reported Hernandez to the store manager for taking the chips.
After meeting with store management, Hernandez was suspended and then terminated for violating the store’s “anti-grazing” policy.
According to court testimony, Walgreens officials said the company incurs significant losses from employee theft, estimated at exceeding $350 million per year. In order to combat the problem, Walgreens has a strict policy against employee theft in the form of “grazing” — eating food merchandise without paying for it first — that applies to all employees.
The store manager testified he was “absolutely certain” about terminating Hernandez because she took the chips in violation of company policy, and that he believed there was no “gray area” or “discretion” under Walgreens’ policy.
You can read the details of the settlement here: America’s Largest Drug Store Chain to Pay $180,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – JDSupra
Drugstore giant Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a longtime employee with diabetes and to implement revised policies and training to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer. After an investigation by EEOC investigator Carlos Rocha, and after attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Walgreen Company, Case No. CV 11-04470) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
On Apr. 14, U.S. District Judge William Orrick noted that “Walgreen has failed to allege any misconduct that is unrelated to her disability,” and denied Walgreens’ motion for summary judgment. At this hearing, Walgreens’ own legal counsel acknowledged Hernandez as a long-term valued employee with a very good track record, and described her termination as a “harsh result” perceived by the EEOC as unfair.
“Not only was this harsh and unfair, but it was illegal, and that’s why the EEOC sued to correct this wrong,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “People may think this case revolves around theft, but the real issue is how a company responded to a valued 18-year employee, whom it knew for 13 years to be diabetic, and who attempted to pay for the chips after she recovered from her hypoglycemic attack.”
Wow, good for Josefina! At last some good news about the “little” guy beating the big company assholes.
The rest of today’s links in dump fashion:
Tom Petty is stepping up to the mic:
Over in Britain they are asking why here in America are there so many Hot car deaths: The children left behind
Sticking with children for a bit longer.
The brown babies are getting a brown senator worked up: (But I guess Cuban is the “good” sort of brown?)
But hey, if the Christian right wing assholes aren’t trying to send the immigrant children back to the hell they are escaping, they are trying to save them from Hell by teaching them “Jesus” saves!
Fucking religious people piss me off.
And it works all ways:
This is something too:
On the “I don’t know karate, but I know…”…crazy front: BBC News – ‘Eighty new genes linked to schizophrenia’
And last bit of news, those off-shore wind farms are like an all you can eat buffet for seals: Seals forage at offshore wind farms
By using sophisticated GPS tracking to monitor seals’ every movement, researchers have shown for the first time that some individuals are repeatedly drawn to offshore wind farms and pipelines. Those man-made structures probably serve as artificial reefs and attractive hunting grounds, according to a study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 21.
“I was shocked when I first saw the stunning grid pattern of a seal track around Sheringham Shoal,” an offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom, says Deborah Russell of the University of St Andrews. “You could see that the individual appeared to travel in straight lines between turbines, as if he was checking them out for potential prey and then stopping to forage at certain ones.”
Russell and her colleagues tagged harbor and gray seals on the British and Dutch coasts of the North Sea. Their data showed 11 harbor seals within two active wind farms, Alpha Ventus in Germany and Sheringham Shoal in the southeast UK. At both sites, some individual seals regularly entered the wind farms and, in some cases, showed these striking grid-like movement patterns as they appeared to forage at individual turbines.
The researchers also observed both gray and harbor seals associating with subsea pipelines. Two seals in the Netherlands encountered a section of pipeline and followed it on multiple trips for up to 10 days at a time.
There is a video illustration at the link.
The researchers now hope to continue their research to understand the population consequences of the massive planned developments. For instance, no one knows yet whether wind farms increase the total amount of prey available to seals or simply concentrate prey in a new and man-made location, making the prey particularly vulnerable to predation. The researchers say it will be imperative to resolve this uncertainty so that anthropogenic structures can be designed and managed to reduce adverse and increase any positive effects of these structures.
Ugh. I overslept again, and this post will go up a bit late. As I get older, it takes me longer to get rested and reoriented after taking a long trip. Even with almost daily naps, I’m still sleeping longer at night. Normally, I do well with about 7 hours sleep a night. I hope I get back to that routine soon!
Once again, there isn’t a lot of news except for the crises in Gaza and Ukraine. I’ll update you on those and then see if I can find a few other interesting reads.
Here’s the latest on Gaza from Reuters, Israel pounds Gaza despite international peace efforts.
(Reuters) - Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboringEgypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties.
However, there was no let-up in the fighting around Gaza, with plumes of black smoke spiraling into the sky, and Israeli shells raining down on the coastal Palestinian enclave.
Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.
Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes out of Gaza by Hamas, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank and suffering economic hardship because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
“A ceasefire is not near,” said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, viewed as the most dovish member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner security cabinet.
“I see no light at the end of the tunnel,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.
Also posted just a short time ago at USA Today, Gaza resident: We’re being ‘collectively punished’.
GAZA CITY — As Israeli forces continued their air, land and sea offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, hitting about 70 targets including five mosques, outrage among Palestinians caught in the crossfire grows with the mounting death toll.
More than 583 Palestinians have died and more than 3,300 people [have been] injured in the offensive, The Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The two-week carnage has led many Palestinians to express their support for Hamas, the terrorist-cum-political group that Israeli forces have been targeting since July 8 in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks against Israel.
“We faced two Israeli wars before but this one is the most bloodiest and most cruel,” said Abu Awni, 38, of Gaza City. “Civilians are attacked in their homes. I’m against Hamas, but when Israel is killing my family, then I will join Hamas.”
“The world must wake up and stop consuming Israeli propaganda,” he added. “More than half of the population in Gaza is not affiliated with Hamas. But we have been collectively punished.”
Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Quidra said the casualties were the same as a full-fledged war. “Bodies torn to pieces. Severe burns. We even found some chips of missiles in the bodies of victims,” he said.
This video from CNN is incredible. Wolf Blitzer asks a Gaza resident why he doesn’t just leave if things are so bad? The man responds, “Where can I flee?” and then continues with a barage of sarcasm, while Blitzer listens stone-faced.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyau continues to assert that the deaths in Gaza are caused by Hamas using residents as “human shields.” Israel has asked these people to leave urban areas, he says, but they just won’t leave. He doesn’t say where they are supposed to go.
I’ve posted a few of David Harris-Gershon’s blog posts from Tikkun. Gershon has strongly support Israel for his entire life, but he recently reached a breaking point. Here’s his latest, Not in My Name, Netanyahu.
As I write these words, my hands tremble from the unspeakable images and stories I’ve witnessed in Gaza. They tremble with worry that those young Israeli soldiers losing their lives, casualties in a war they did not create, will be among those families I know, and that their numbers will grow.
My hands also tremble because, during all this, Israel’s leader – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has repeatedlyclaimed to represent me, and all Jews, as Israel continues its brutal assault on Gaza, an assault which, as historyshows, will neither achieve its strategic goals nor reap anything but heartache.
No, he does not speak for me.
When Netanyahu said on CNN that Palestinians benefit from “telegenically dead” civilians killed by Israel, that images of carnage helped Hamas because journalists would then ask about Israel’s actions, he did not speak for me.
When he said that Palestinians “don’t give any thought” about their children or their welfare, and that Palestinians use their children as though they are inanimate objects, he did not speak for me.
Read the rest at the link. It’s not long.
Ukraine and the Downed Malaysian Airlines Plane
Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) – As bodies from Thursday’s air disaster reached a facility Tuesday in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the Ukrainian government ratcheted up its accusations against Moscow, saying a Russian officer shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Vitaly Nayda, Ukraine’s director of informational security, made the accusation in an interview with CNN. The person was “absolutely” a Russian, he said. “A Russian-trained, well-equipped, well-educated officer … pushed that button deliberately.”
Ukrainian intelligence backs up the assertion, Nayda said.
Moscow has denied claims that it pulled the trigger. And Russian Army Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov suggested a Ukrainian jet fighter may have shot the plane down….
Nayda, speaking to CNN on Tuesday, referred to audio recordings captured by Ukrainian intelligence. “We taped conversations” between a Russian officer and his office in Moscow, Nayda said. “We know for sure that several minutes before the missile was launched, there was a report” to a Russian officer that the plane was coming, Nayda said.
From Reuters: Train with MH17 bodies on final journey reaches Ukraine base.
Five refrigerated wagons containing 200 body bags arrived in the city of Kharkiv after pro-Russian separatists agreed to hand over the plane’s black boxes to Malaysian authorities and the bodies to the Netherlands, where many victims had lived.
The train slowly rolled into the grounds of an arms industry plant, where the remains are due to be unloaded and flown to the Netherlands. A spokesowman for a Dutch team of forensic experts in Kharkiv said this was not expected before Wednesday….
Western governments, including European Union ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, have threatened Russia with broader sanctions for what they say is its backing of the militia although they are struggling to agree a response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would urge the separatists to allow a full investigation. The Netherlands said it would lead the investigation while Malaysia said it would look after the plane’s black boxes until a team was set up.
The New York Times reported on Russia’s Message on Jet: Conciliation and Bluster.
MOSCOW — Russia presented a combination of conciliation and bluster on Monday over its handling of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet, with President Vladimir V. Putin seemingly probing for a way out of the crisis without appearing to compromise with the West.
On one hand, he offered conciliatory words in a video statement, oddly released in the middle of the night, while the separatists allied with Moscow in southeastern Ukraine released the bodies of the victims and turned over the black box flight recorders from the doomed aircraft to Malaysian officials.
However, two senior military officers forcefully demanded that the United States show publicly any proof that rebels fired the fatal missile, and again suggested that the Ukrainian military shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet despite the fact that Ukraine has not used antiaircraft weapons in the fight along its eastern border.
Mr. Putin seemed to respond to the outraged international demands growing daily that he intervene personally to rein in the rebels — particularly to halt the degrading chaos surrounding the recovery of the remains. But at the same time, Moscow did not concede that it was at fault.
Much more at the link.
Finally, Politico polled voters on whether they wanted to intervene in this conflicts, POLITICO poll: Stay out of Ukraine, Middle East
Amid deepening violence across Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Americans are recoiling from direct engagement overseas and oppose U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine by large margins, according to a POLITICO poll of 2014 battleground voters.
The survey provides a unique look at the foreign policy attitudes of voters who will decide the most competitive Senate and House races this fall. It shows an intensely skeptical view of American military intervention:
Asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, just 17 percent answered in the affirmative. Thirty-one percent said the current policy is correct and 34 percent said the U.S. should be less involved. The poll was completed before the downing last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the civilian airliner that was apparently attacked over eastern Ukraine.
The poll results also showed that Americans don’t want out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and don’t want to be drawn back in for any reason. Are you listening Congress?
Links to Some Interesting Reads on other Topics
I highly recommend this one from The New Republic, Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies.
From the NYT, The End of ‘Genius,’ by Joshua Wolf Shenk.
Bad news for states that didn’t set up ACA exchanges (NPR), U.S. Appeals Court Deals Blow To Obama’s Health Law.
We already knew this, but now there’s a study to prove it, FBI pressured Muslims into committing terrorist acts, then arrested them: report (Raw Story).
Talk to Action, Access Denied: The Religious Right Opens Up A New Front On Its War Against Birth Control, by Rob Boston.
BBC News, The German officer who tried to kill Hitler, by Alex Last.
From The Nation, via Alternet, Journalistic Malpractice: The Media Enables the Right-Wing Politicization of Science, by Reed Richardson.