Wednesday Reads: Have a pizza and a smile…or Ex Libris and the Sea.

08d39c20af4c7b7c1da9eb22e1c5047eGood Morning

This should be interesting, I am sitting here trying to write today’s post with a pounding sinus headache, while North by Northwest is on the telly.

68cb62a8eb3ed84d979a189400a62961If my brain is not fully functional because of the sinus…my fingers and my thoughts may be will be forced to wander off into the film as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint travel by train across the country towards the monument carve out on the mountain, you know the one…with those big ugly men’s faces on it.

The thread will feature plenty of ex libris artwork from various time periods and artist and countries as found on Pinterest…so enjoy them.

eb2ea87b8f543e0636a920e0e41fe361I will start with this first link, a story that I found from a couple of weeks ago, perhaps you have seen it already: Barbara Bowman Speaks About Bill Cosby Sexual Abuse Allegations

Last week, Newsweek interviewed Tamara Green, one of 13 women who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them in a civil lawsuit brought by Andrea Constand in 2004, and settled under undisclosed terms in 2006. Now, a second woman is speaking out: Barbara Bowman, a 46-year-old artist who says Cosby took her under his wing in the late ‘80s, when she was a teenager — and repeatedly emotionally and physically abused her.

6ae1625fa92c719cd6f424aaeb95e6e9Both Bowman and Green joined the 2004 lawsuit as witnesses after hearing about it on television; neither had anything to gain financially, as the statute of limitations had expired for both of them.

Read the interview at the link, it is something else…then take a few minutes to peek at the comments. Oh they are all the usual shits you would expect, but I thought it was a very believable story.

Next up, some fun…I must tell you, a lot of today’s links are not “trending” news items.  Y’all remember that article about how you say the word youse, you, you all, you guys and what was the other one?  What We Mean When We Say Hello – Deborah Fallows – The Atlantic

The curious geography of American greetings

Last week I wrote about conversation starters that follow “Hello” and “How do you do.” Many dozens of you have 52daba947cfd5c658de9b432ae155f73written in and generously included your comments and interpretations of what you think people actually mean when they say something like “Where do you live?” or “Where are you from?”

Here is what you’ve said so far:

Check it out, I would love to see what this article’s author would think of places like Tampa, that has an influx of different people…from all over.

With all the cold weather, it can suck ass…but look at what beautiful things it can bring: Ice caves in northern Wisconsin are dazzling winter phenomena

Mother Nature has become a  Chihuly-like sculptress in sea caves along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Icicles hang by the thousands in caves at  Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. In warmer weather, the caves would be accessible only by water, but during this consistently cold winter, they are accessible by frozen lakeshore.
Explorers drawn to ice show
( Brian Peterson / Associated Press / February 2, 2014 )

Mother Nature has become a Chihuly-like sculptress in sea caves along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Icicles hang by the thousands in caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. In warmer weather, the caves would be accessible only by water, but during this consistently cold winter, they are accessible by frozen lakeshore.

Lots more pictures at the link.

398dbc133effee7eb5c06975bd0dfc43More “neat” stuff to see: Geologists Glimpse a Heaven Below – NYTimes.com

Imagine the frustration faced for so many years by Eric W. Jordan and his colleagues. They could take a pretty good guess at what lay hundreds of feet beneath the macadam-sealed surface of New York City’s streets. They just had no way of knowing for sure.

But the last 10 years or so have been a boon to Mr. Jordan and his fellow geologists; mammoth subterranean excavations for the city’s Third Water Tunnel, the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access Project have enabled them to see for themselves the rock formations and faults that they had only been able to imagine, undergirding Manhattan.

There is this amazing picture at that link, a massive space within one of the underground tunnels…shitfire! It does not look real but it is…

984408fec6f0fe9deece5270899f2f3aI’ve got another thing for you that is real, but seems surreal. Like a film that should have been directed by David Lynch, Inside the mind of a mass murderer, in drag – Amanpour – CNN.com Blogs

How do we know what is in the mind of a mass murderer? How about getting them to re-enact those crimes?

That is exactly what documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer did with several men who participated in mass killings in Indonesia decades ago.

d79ed463194db68bb51a2ff235427b76“It’s tempting to look at them through the lens of sort of fiction storytelling, where you have good guys and bad guys, good guys and then cackling villains,” Oppenheimer told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

“When you’re a non-fiction filmmaker, you have to look at the real people you meet.”

Just look at this image from the movie:

To his surprise and horror, they were enthusiastic. They agreed to make a movie about how they killed and allowed him to film the process.

The result is a mind-bending movie within a documentary, by turns emotionally revolting, beautiful, and bizarre – one of the mass killers appears, as often as not, in drag. It is rarely entirely clear what is ‘acting’ and what is genuine.

Alright. Moving on.

19866f965bbdf137de654d938edb63e0While on the subject of film, here is a reminder. Watch Pygmalion (1939) – staring Leslie Howard on Sunday, February 23rd at 12:15 am EST. It is fantastic!

Decades before the 1964 musical My Fair Lady swept the Academy Awards®, the author of Pygmalion, the play on which it was based, became a most unlikely Oscar® winner for the original’s 1938 screen adaptation. Possibly the most intelligent person to win the award (he might have claimed to be the only intelligent man to do so), Shaw holds the distinction of being the only individual to win both an Academy Award® and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Given his disdain for the movies, particularly those adapted from his own plays, it’s a minor miracle the film even got made and turned out to be a brilliant adaptation.

[...]

e7e6ea1caa0095cc4bb164461a1e5e9d by Jan Battermann for Eugene StrensThe story of a phonetics professor (modeled on real-life phonetician Henry Sweet) who turns a Cockney flower girl into a lady by teaching her to speak properly touched a chord with audiences, who viewed it as one of the writer’s most romantic plays. It had already been filmed twice, in Germany in 1935 and in the Netherlands in 1937. Shaw had disliked those versions so much that when producer Gabriel Pascal first approached him about filming an English version, the writer turned him down. Only when Pascal promised not to change a word and agreed to cast Wendy Hiller, whom Shaw had admired in stage productions of Pygmalion and St. Joan, did the great writer accede. Although she had already made one film, the low-budget 1937 comedy Lancashire Luck, Pascal gave her introductory billing in Pygmalion at Shaw’s request.

b78f9c96d1c0710899e2152527f8cb4d leboroniThe author did not get his way in casting the male lead, however. His first choice for Henry Higgins was Charles Laughton, but Pascal convinced him that Leslie Howard would make the film more marketable in the U.S. That choice may not have been based solely on the stars’ box-office appeal. In the mid-’30s, Laughton was riding high on a series of popular films, including Ruggles of Red Gap and Mutiny on the Bounty (both 1935). Rather, Pascal may have been appealing to the popular notion that the leading characters eventually married. Shaw had resisted the notion and even wrote a 1916 essay describing Eliza’s life after parting ways with Higgins and decrying the more sentimental interpretations as “lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me-downs of the ragshop in which Romance keeps its stock of ‘happy endings’ to misfit all stories.” With the more romantic Howard cast as Higgins, however, Pascal may have hoped to weight the story towards a more romantic interpretation that would have sold more tickets.

fb24533f0fb9e9c151887ddd327e787fOne way Pascal got around Shaw’s insistence on a word-for-word filming of the play was by hiring him to write the screenplay. That gave the author a chance to incorporate scenes cut from most stage productions because they would have added too many sets (Shaw even had said such scenes were best suited to a film version). The writer also got to expand the scene at the Embassy Ball, where Higgins wins his bet to pass Eliza off as a lady. As a result, Shaw agreed to cut some of the play’s more philosophical speeches, including several of the longer speeches delivered by Eliza’s father. He also grudgingly agreed to include a final scene in which Eliza returns to Higgins, who, unable to express his love for her, demands “Where the devil are my slippers, Eliza?” Shaw would later disavow this ending, insisting that Eliza instead married her high society admirer, Freddie Eynsford-Hill.

Bottom line is Shaw loved this film version.

7fa59304b52c6ef4b87a2992aa906494 Rudolf Koch (1902-1985) Ex Libris Ursula Laut (1940)At year’s end, it was nominated for four Academy Awards® — including Best Picture, Best Actor (Howard) and Best Actress (Hiller) — years before foreign films were regularly honored at the Oscars®. It won for Shaw’s screenplay, but the author was hardly grateful. Instead, he announced, “It’s an insult for them to offer me any honor, as if they had never heard of me — and it’s very likely they never have. They might as well send an honor to George for being King of England.” His private views may have been more appreciative. Mary Pickford would later report that when she visited Shaw the award was prominently displayed on his mantelpiece.

When novelist Lloyd C. Douglas announced Pygmalion had won Best Screenplay, he quipped, “Mr. Shaw’s story now is as original as it was three 40def3de76e3f32652389ba1e75c3e83 Pavel Šimon Ex-libris Kniha Elisky Pihrtovéthousand years ago.” But though Shaw had, indeed, been inspired by the Greek myth about a sculptor who falls in love with his female statue, his version of the story became as much a part of popular culture as the original legend.

Please stay up and watch it, you will not be disappointed.

Okay, now a quick link to some eye-candy: Anna Sui Fall 2014 Collection | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

A sad farewell to actor Christopher Malcolm, Rocky Horror’s Brad, dies aged 67

Tributes are being paid to actor and theatre producer Christopher Malcolm, whose roles included the original Brad Majors in the Rocky Horror Show and Saffy’s gay dad in Absolutely Fabulous.

Christopher Malcolm
Christopher Malcolm starred in 1979 drama The Great Riviera Bank Robbery alongside Ian McShane

His death, aged 67, was confirmed by his daughter Morgan Lloyd Malcolm on Twitter, who wrote: “Today the world lost a beautiful, brilliant man.”

868ee92a6c3e45818072c2bbe5817c37She added he “left peacefully and with dignity. He will always be my hero.”

His starred in films such as The Empire Strikes Back, Labyrinth and Highlander.

Having played Brad Majors in the original production of The Rocky Horror Show in 1974 and co-produced the 1990 West End revival, he then took charge of producing all productions of Richard O’Brien’s much-loved musical around the world.

Since I have been sick, and totally out of the loop, I missed this nugget of news: President Obama Apologizes for Dissing Art History Degrees | Mediaite

1cc23b1ad1f95fb03bcd4632b7b7fb5aIf you got a degree in art history, your eye might have twitched a bit when President Obama said a few weeks ago that Americans would be more well off in the manufacturing industry as opposed to, say, having an art history degree. Well, there is literally nothing these days that doesn’t warrant an apology, and now Obama has apologized for that remark.

Well at least he has made an apology. I guess.

e821cd587ddb9da9bbe88ae9c293f546Then you have the other extreme, a president of a country who is completely off base. I am speaking of Putin of course, and his position on gays. Did y’all see this? Members of Pussy Riot released in Sochi – CNN.com (I thought that Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were no longer “band members.”)

Two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were detained briefly Tuesday in central Sochi, after apparently being considered suspects in a theft at their hotel, and then released.

3036fb590140298455a7ab5b6debbf6e“A survey in connection with the theft at the Hotel Adler is completed, there is no claim against those questioned,” police said in a prepared statement.

Earlier in the day, band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were meeting with journalists when police detained them, according to Tolokonnikova’s husband, Petr Verzilov. Russian media corroborated the report.

“They were put to the floor and beaten and physical force was used to them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of their lawyer, who was on his way to the police department,” Verzilov told reporters.

44c53b4794e42536b91768eff9a5fda7The stories I have read about arrest out of Sochi are scary, what a disgusting display to the world.

Olympic police today re-arrested former Italian member of parliament Vladimir Luxuria for wearing an outfit that was deemed a bit too “gay” for the Sochi Olympics.

Luxuria was wearing rainbow-colored clothing, and a rainbow wig.  She was arrested while walking to her seat at an Olympic hockey game.

The rainbow is now legally suspect in Russia since the passage last year of a draconian anti-gay law that bans what the Russians call “gay propaganda.” In reality, the law bans anything – speech, clothing or actions – that might give the impression that being gay is okay.616078707e29af21c89b13e6bef47d49

For example, the flag of Russia’s autonomous Jewish region came under scrutiny from Moscow because it contains a rainbow. And a newspaper editor was recently fined three-month’s pay for quoting a gay person in a news story in which the gay person defended themselves for having been fired based on their sexual orientation. And under similar legislation in St. Petersburg, a man was arrested for wearing rainbow suspenders.

af88f7c8f87bd263e7800cfcd9597f1bDamn…better not be caught eating Skittles or Lucky Charms in Sochi eh?

This post is getting long so real quick like:

U.S. regulator on India visit calls for greater drug safety collaboration | Reuters

3 peace activists sentenced for breaking into nuclear site – The Washington Post

Official who raised safety concerns at Hanford nuclear site is fired – latimes.com

d2b7119e87dfa6dfc568111803737bbdAP sources: DOE to OK $6.5B for Georgia nuke plant | AccessNorthGa -That is for a new nuke plant south of Augusta, it was approved in 2010 under Obama’s watch. Doesn’t make me too happy considering there was an 4.1 earthquake not far from there just a few days ago.

A trunk to cry on? Elephants console distressed pals, study says – For such a smart and sympathetic animal to have as a “symbol” of the GOP party? Oh the irony.

The 5 most egregious antiabortion proposals of 2014 (so far) – Salon.com

ad9879804284d3406c8cb5c61c113102CHARLOTTE: After comment to Gov. McCrory, food store cook fired in Charlotte | State Politics | NewsObserver.com

One observation, isn’t the Gov a public servant and does he not work for the people aka the food clerk whom he got fired?

Unbelievable: Chevron apologizes for fracking well explosion with coupons for free pizza – Salon.com

Here’s a photo of the letter and coupon obtained by No Fracking Way. Unlike the long-term health and environment effects of fracking, this special offer expires soon:

All that shit makes this real estate look good, remember that Sky Dancing commune?

Medieval Castle and Hamlet for Sale in Italy: Castello Izzalini

Medieval Castle and Hamlet for Sale in Italy

This medieval hamlet for sale in Umbria, Italy, dates back to the 12th century, as witnessed by the Todi’s Liber Focolarium, da4752fd2eedb621c9525e353c3bf0a1that is the book of the local families. It was then inhabited by 32 families, more or less 150 people.

Somebody get me the phone!

Placed on a hilltop overlooking the Tiber River valley, Izzalini is surrounded by a large proprietary 16,000 sqm forest. You can find there ancient trees, witnessing the history of the place, olive groves, whose fruits’ nectar is the renowned exquisite Umbrian Extra Virgin Oil, pasture for herds, whose milk is used to make the delicious Umbrian cheeses on site and woodland, suitable for different purposes: activities, garden, cultivation (e.g.: vineyard, olives, truffles), etc.

Castle for Sale

Oh you got to go and check the place out. More at the link and since it is a history blog link, it will have plenty of historical background to go with it.  Yeah, history majors kick ass!

Finally, this is real cool: SEE IT: California scuba divers interact with octopus who tries to take camera  – NY Daily News

Innit nature wonderful!

f5dcf14f060722d82b14bb4c2f38e19f Alexandra Von Hellberg

That is all I’ve got today, share your thoughts and links below.


Wednesday Reads: Mambo Italiano Muthafukkerz…

1091f45df98358d48611af8ac49be2dbGood Morning

Well, another storm is hitting here in Banjoville. The weather people are saying we should get a total of 6 to 12 inches of snow when it is all said and done.

Down south things are a lot worse…if you have not seen the big headlines over at Huffington Post or Drudge, take a look at this:

Via Drudge

HISTORIC ICE STORM UNFOLDS IN SOUTH...
GEORGIA WARNED: 'CATASTROPHIC'...
SEEN FROM SPACE...
Hundreds of flights cancelled...
Roads deserted...
Panicked Shoppers Fight Over Food...
Nor'easter Could Be 'Biggest Of Season'...
'Snow Rage' Afflicts Storm-Weary Locals...

And HuffPo

SOUTH BRACES FOR ‘CATASTROPHIC’ STORM

Deadly ice and snow storm bears down on U.S. South | Reuters

The storm could be “a catastrophic event” of “historical proportions,” the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Georgia, said of the latest blast of wintry weather to hit the region.232ee103789d0f5b43c9f78b0272a458

Conditions were expected to worsen overnight, with up to an inch of ice predicted in parts of Georgia and central South Carolina.

Two to 6 inches of snow fell in north Georgia on Tuesday, with another 5 to 9 inches expected by Thursday morning, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Darbe.

But Darbe said ice was the bigger worry, with a quarter to three-quarters of an inch expected in the area that includes metropolitan Atlanta.

[...]

Officials were quick to make plans for dealing with the weather after being criticized for inadequate preparation before a storm two weeks ago. That storm paralyzed Atlanta area roads and forced more than 11,000 students in Alabama to spend the night at their schools.

Oh you bet your ass they were ready this time…

0211 Luckovich cartoon: Drift away | Mike Luckovich

021114-toon-luckovich-ed

In other news, House Approves Higher Debt Limit Without Condition – NYTimes.com

f827bc9e35771965e33b76c555d00cdcEnding three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default on the nation’s debt was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without any conditions.

The vote — 221 to 201 — relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other legislation. Only 28 Republicans voted yes, and only two Democrats voted no.

I guess you could say hell froze over?

2440946b7e4be9ef6ce9a7a6cd0d3a66Simply by holding the vote, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio effectively ended a three-year Tea Party-inspired era of budget showdowns that had raised the threat of default and government shutdowns, rattled economic confidence and brought serious scrutiny from other nations questioning Washington’s ability to govern. In the process, though, Mr. Boehner also set off a series of reprisals from fellow Republican congressmen and outside groups that showcased the party’s deep internal divisions.

“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”

e6cca4e1507cba937018309733ea71a1The NYT article goes on to say it was a victory for the President and the Dems…but considering the shit we have dealt with the last few years, and those poor people who will be dealing with lower food stamp funds, how can that be a victory?

Meanwhile in West Virginia, another spill is causing the citizens grief: ‘Significant’ slurry spill blackens Kanawha creek

More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a “significant spill” from a Patriot Coal processing facility.

Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.

83a0b790e2e248e98e6d1edde44bf60a“This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill.”

“When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out.”

That is disgusting. I don’t think the people of West Virginia will ever be able to drink the water again.

For a little laugh, here is my favorite actor of today…I know the reason for the video is not funny, it is disgusting, but of all the other “black actors doing commercials” it is good to see Sammy call the asshole out:

Samuel Jackson goes nuclear on reporter for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne – Salon.com

Local TV stations have a reputation for goofy unprofessionalism and quirky hiccups.  This segment at KTLA in Los Angeles is something so much worse. Veteran entertainment reporter Sam Rubin begins his interview by asking about Jackson’s Super Bowl commercial, and things get real ugly real quick.

Samuel Jackson goes nuclear on reporter for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne

“What Super Bowl commercial?” responds a flabbergasted Jackson.  ”See, you’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I’m not Laurence Fishburne!” (Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus in “The Matrix” for a Kia spot.) “We don’t all look alike!”

He then goes on to list other black actors in commercials, who he is not.

8c717a1dd36b6aae4951ef50a11320b6Of course, the news reporter is not the only one who was tacky as hell, as you can “hear” from the video at the link:

Just as uncomfortable as Rubin’s attempts to brush off the blunder by saying, “Really my big mistake … let’t talk about ‘Robocop,’” are the hoots and howls coming from Rubin’s peers who clearly don’t get how terribly offensive this “mistake” is.  Rubin later apologized and claimed he was referring to a commercial for Jackson’s upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  Regardless, the incident (and Jackson’s blunt response) is a reminder of Hollywood’s serious race problem that was starkly evident at the Golden Globes.

You can see the look on Jackson’s face at the end, it really does show how tired he is of all the shit.

I noticed yesterday y’all were talking in the comments about books you were reading, I just started to read this one about cuss words as discussed in this link here:  Here’s the first recorded instance of the F-word in Englishec888f05da4ae0857ec3302f256c8421

And it’s a monk expressing his displeasure at an abbot. In the margins of a guide to moral conduct. Because of course.

Technically, “fuck” appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like “fuck” was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as “fukkit.”

Here's the first recorded instance of the F-word in English

But for English’s first use, we’ve got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He’s written “O D fuckin abbot.” Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this “fuck” could be either literal or metaphorical:

a35537fa19bb5c218d174c664d71b9a6It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.

So, either this monk was recording his abbot’s sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only “fuck” could convey it’s scope.

Did you all see the big joint news out of New York and Italy?  I’ve got a few articles on this mass arrest from both Italian and US sources:

1cdfa6e0951abf54ce7b61e71e1a944dNdrangheta ‘snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade’ – GazzettaDelSud

Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia, once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, has grown in heft and reach thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade and is even muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa Nostra’s historic five families in New York, investigators said after a major Italian-FBI bust Tuesday. “This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the ‘Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra”, Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New York after 26 arrests in a probe into a new drug route from Guyana to Europe via the ‘Ndrangheta-infiltrated Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro.

According to the Gazzetta Del Sud, this ‘Ndrangheta Mafia even used Mexican cartels in a joint venture in their set-up to traffic cocaine.

32d48f11ed5ab3975b8c39d2b2614db6As for the US side of the take down: Arrests in New York and Italy Thwart Mob Drug Scheme, Authorities Say – NYTimes.com

“They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish” and “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” Franco Lupoi said, according to prosecutors who say the conversation was recorded by investigators.

On Tuesday, federal authorities announced the arrests of Mr. Lupoi, the owner of a Brooklyn bakery, and six other people in New York on charges that included narcotics trafficking and money laundering and that were the culmination of a two-year undercover F.B.I. investigation. In Italy, the police announced the arrests of 17 people in connection with the investigation.

8e67a16549cf6808c98b6d9a565c7a8bWhat made the case remarkable were not the charges but the defendants’ links to the ’Ndrangheta, the organized crime group based in Calabria that is notorious for kidnappings and for its success importing cocaine into Europe.

More from the LA Times: Italian-U.S. Mafia drug trafficking ring busted, FBI and police say

The FBI and Italian police said they had broken up a global heroin and cocaine trafficking ring Tuesday after stumbling upon a fledgling alliance between a Calabrian Mafia group and associates of New York’s notorious

Twenty-four arrests were made in Italy and the United States after a two-year operation that relied on both wiretaps and an American undercover agent named by investigators as “Jimmy,” who is said to have infiltrated the Gambinos and fooled Italians into believing he was a heroin dealer. Seventeen of the arrests were made in Italy and seven in the United States.

8c0b6ff431fc394939ef5694f77cf6c4Those arrested in the U.S. were arraigned before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn. The men, some of them suspected of being members of the Gambino and Bonanno “families,” were listed as using various street aliases such as “Lello,” “Freddy,” and “Charlie Pepsi.”

I am sure more information will be coming forward, but…

The coordinated sting halted the planned shipment of more than a ton of cocaine from Latin America to Italy in liquid form, smuggled with help from Mexican cartels in coconut and pineapple cans, law enforcement officials said. They put the street value at $1 billion.

One more link…on the additional discovery of ‘Ndrangheta connections with the Far East heroin trade: Gambino, Bonanno family members held in joint US-Italy anti-mafia raid – CNN.com

Raffaele Grassi, head of the Criminal Unit of the Italian State Police, told reporters that the operation demonstrated 8729a9e910772d09d68639720e66b252that the “‘Ndrangheta is one of the strongest organizations in the world in illegal drug trade.”

He cited its sophisticated network of contacts and its ability to adapt and find new markets, including “expanding beyond Italian borders.”

Grassi said that historically, the Gambino family had had ties with the Sicilian Mafia, Cosa Nostra. But their involvement in the illegal traffic of heroin, known as the “Pizza Connection,” was dismantled or severely curtailed in the 1980s, he said, and they are now trading mainly cocaine.

36ffef735f803acdb7b518b6a6be3800The latest operation, according to Grassi and FBI officials, shows that the mafia families of the “new continent” are still seeking and relying on “old country” connections — which is why investigators dubbed the operation “New Bridge.”

According to Grassi, the Italian-American mafia families “need this new bridge to connect and support the traffic of cocaine.”

While the existence of a connection between the Calabrian mafia and U.S. mafia families has been well known, Tuesday’s operation shows its great strength and reach, investigators said.

One of the more alarming discoveries to emerge from the operation was evidence that ‘Ndrangheta has also reached out to the Far East in the heroin trade, another investigator said.

While on the subject of the Mafia, 10 Real-Life Inspirations For Characters In The Godfather – Listverse

It’s one of the immutable laws of nature: You’re channel surfing, and there, between some cooking show and an infomercial, you come upon The Godfather. Even though you own the deluxe Blu-Ray DVD box set with three weeks’ worth of special features, you are glued to that station until the credits roll. And if it’s the first in a Godfather marathon, your day is shot. f3f4d36dad5c94c3549ef3e8bd4f06b6You’re not moving, except to warm up some frozen lasagna between Godfather 2 and Godfather 3.

The Godfather is a classic of American cinema, and Godfather Part 2 is considered by some an even better movie. This story of the patriarch of a New York crime family, and his son who takes over the “family business,” is largely based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, with director Francis Ford Coppola and Puzo producing new material for the films.

Puzo based many of the characters on the real underworld players he heard about growing up and working in New York City.

That thing about getting stuck watching the trilogy on TV, it is so true…it just happened to my mom and me last week, and it was on one of those channels with the commercials.e75c78c0ba7781f147ec6225ad95e9cb (So you know how annoying that can be, and how “glued” we were to stick it out for the three full movies.)

In wrapping this post up, I will end with this tune…a perfect finale to a mob focused post. I know that I have used this song before, but what can I say…

If you gonna be a square
You ain’t a gonna go nowhere
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!

Rosemary Clooney – Mambo Italiano Lyrics

Have a wonderful day, and if you are in the storm’s wake, please stay safe and warm.

And be sure to share with us, what is on your reading list today?


New Year’s Eve Reads

First Night fireworks, Boston

First Night fireworks, Boston

Good Morning!!

Today is the last day of 2013. Tonight at midnight, we’ll bid adieu to another year. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this one go.

There will be lots of celebratory fireworks in cities around to world tonight; the revelry has already begun in New Zealand. USA Today:

New Zealand rang in the New Year with multicolored fireworks erupting from Auckland’s Sky Tower at midnight Tuesday as thousands of cheering revelers danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation’s largest city.

Early pyrotechnic shows erupted over Sydney Harbor, dazzling hundreds of thousands viewers ahead of the main event in Australia and Dubai will later try to create the world’s largest fireworks show to ring in 2014.

Unfortunately we’ve also seen some scarier explosions in the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon there was another accident in North Dakota involving the transport of crude oil. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Cassleton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion. So far the evacuations are still voluntary and only about 65% of the 2,400 residents of Cassleton have left their homes.

The explosion happened shortly after 2 p.m. Monday after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train near Casselton, which is 20 miles west of Fargo, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames. No one was injured in the crash….

In the initial hours after the explosion, authorities told residents to stay indoors to avoid the smoke. Later, when residents were urged to evacuate, some drove to Fargo, where a shelter had been set up for them.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks. BNSF said both trains had more than 100 cars each….

“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.

The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

From the Brampton (Canada) Guardian:

The derailment happened amid heightened concerns about the United States’ increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last summer’s crash in Quebec of a train carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.

The explosions Monday afternoon sent flames and black smoke skyward outside of Casselton, about 40 kilometres west of Fargo. Investigators couldn’t get close to the blaze and official estimates of how many train cars caught fire varied….

Ryan Toop, who lives less than a kilometre away, said he heard explosions and drove as close as about two city blocks to the fire, which erupted on a day when temperatures were below zero.

“I rolled down the window, and you could literally keep your hands warm,” Toop said.

The tracks that the train was on pass through the middle of Casselton, and Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tara Morris said it was “a blessing it didn’t happen within the city.”

No kidding. I’d say that’s a pretty big understatement. Here’s some raw video of the explosion.

In Russia, there are fears that two suicide bombings on Sunday and Monday signal “that a terrorist campaign may have begun that could stretch into the Winter Olympics.” AP via ABC News:

In the wake of Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station and Monday’s blast on a trolleybus, police reinforcements and Interior Ministry troops have been sent into the city, regional police official Andrei Pilipchuk was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. He said more than 5,200 security forces are deployed in the city of 1 million.

The Health Ministry said three more victims died on Tuesday, raising the toll to 34 — 18 from the station bombing and 16 from the bus. Officials said 65 other people were hospitalized with injuries.

Volgograd authorities have canceled mass events for New Year’s Eve, one of Russia’s most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. In Moscow, festivities were to go ahead but authorities said security would be increased.

There has been no claim of responsibility for either bombing, but they came only months after the leader of an Islamic insurgency in southern Russia threatened new attacks on civilian targets in the country, including on the Winter Games that are to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi.

After their enthusiastic defense of the racism, sexism, pedophilia, and homophobia of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Roberts, you’d think right-wingers would hesitate to attack a mild commentary involving race on MSNBC, but you’d be wrong.

MSNBC Panel Criticized For Segment About Romney’s Black Grandchild (VIDEO). From TPM:

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and the panelists on her Sunday morning show drew criticism Monday for poking fun at a Romney family photo that included their adopted African-American grandson, Kieran Romney.

Harris-Perry had the panelists attempt to caption a Romney family photo, which included all of Mitt Romney’s grandchildren.

Harris-Perry joked that Kieran Romney would marry Kanye West’s daughter, North West.

“Could you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she asked.

Panelist and comedian Dean Obeidallah said the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican party.” And actress Pia Glenn started singing “one of these things is not like the other.”

Steve Benen took a look back at the Sunday political talk shows to see what proportion of the guests were from the Democratic and Republican parties. We knew this already, but it’s stunning to see it in a graphic.

The Great 2013 Sunday Show Race

The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “This Week,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday,” hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?

The…chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year, with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats. For 2013, the race wasn’t especially close – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) easily came out on top, making 27 appearances this year. That works out to an average of one appearance every 1.9 weeks (or 2.25 Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year).

sunday show guests

Incredible, isn’t it? Newt Gingrich doesn’t even hold any office and, as Benen points out, “hasn’t served in public office since resigning in disgrace 15 years ago” was in third place in front of Dick Durbin, the supposedly powerful Senate Majority Whip.

According to Mike Konczal of The New Republic, 2013 Was a Bad Year for Wall St. Lobbyists.

Last year, nobody thought that banks would face tougher holding requirements for capital, that regulations of the financial derivatives markets would advance, or that the final Volcker would be a pretty good start instead of an incoherent mess. Yet that is what appears to have happened in 2013. So what caused it? And how it might apply to future political goals?

The successes of 2013 were partially driven by the failures of Wall Street in 2012. The multi-billion dollar trading losses from JPMorgan Chase known as the “London Whale” changed the dynamics for financial reform in a way that took a year to realize. JPMorgan had been leading the charge against reform, arguing that the effort was over-harsh and destructive, and that Wall Street had already cleaned up its act on its own. Indeed, the big concern in 2012 was that Wall Street would convince enough moderate Democrats that Dodd-Frank had gone too far in certain respects, and that Congress would stop regulatory action before it was even completed. This fell apart right alongside the multi-billion dollar losses in JPMorgan’s position. Though various bills to remove parts of Dodd-Frank would pass the House by Republican votes, these efforts failed to generate moderate Democratic votes in the Senate after the Whale trade became public.

Read the rest at the link.

Hey did you know that dolphins like to get high? Read about it at The Independent: Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.

In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.

Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.

Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.

The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer.

Hey, why is that surprising? Lots of animals probably enjoy altered states of consciousness. Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? What about a big cat?

Finally, I highly recommend these two posts on the NSF/Snowden story by NSFWCORP writers now publishing at Pando Daily, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine respectively.

Snowden’s biggest revelation: We don’t know what power is anymore, nor do we care

Rentacops on desktops: Edward Snowden’s dismissal of Surveillance Valley is wrong, and dangerous

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread.

I hope 2014 will be a great year for all of you!!


Wednesday Reads: Farewell Woman in White, Eleanor Parker

EleanorParker bigGood Morning

We lost one of the most beautiful and talented actresses yesterday. Eleanor Parker passed away, she was 91 years old. This post features photographs of Eleanor and movie clips of some of my favorite scenes. TCM is going to have a memorial event for her on the evening of December 17th…so be sure to catch that.

Eleanor Parker, 91, Oscar-Nominated Actress, Dies – New York Times

tumblr_msexalH76i1rqf1l2o1_500Eleanor Parker, who was nominated three times for a best-actress Oscar but whose best-known role was a supporting one, as the marriage-minded baroness in “The Sound of Music,” died on Monday in Palm Springs, Calif. She was 91.

She was nominated for an Oscar for dramatic roles as a wrongly convicted young prisoner in “Caged” (1950), a police officer’s neglected wife in “Detective Story” (1951) and an opera star with polio in “Interrupted Melody” (1955), a biography of the Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence. She also received an Emmy Award nomination in 1963 for an episode of “The Eleventh Hour,” an NBC series about psychiatric cases.

79-wip-headIf she never became a star, admirers contended, it was because of her versatility. Sometimes a blonde, sometimes a brunette, often a redhead, Ms. Parker made indelible impressions but submerged herself in a wide range of characters, from a war hero’s noble fiancée in “Pride of the Marines” (1945) to W. Somerset Maugham’s vicious waitress-prostitute in a remake of “Of Human Bondage” (1946).

Eleanor Jean Parker was born on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio, the daughter of a math teacher and his wife. She appeared in school plays as a child and, in her teens, headed for Massachusetts to study acting at the Rice Summer Theater in Martha’s Vineyard. Then she moved to California and studied at the Pasadena Playhouse.

From the LA Times: Eleanor Parker dies at 91; played baroness in ‘The Sound of Music’

Eleanor Parker

“Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known,” said Plummer in a statement Monday. “I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever.”pmauDYeIjoaGtZCy1PdY7lwXZ96

The fame accompanying Parker’s supporting but pivotal role in the enduring 1965 musical about the Von Trapp family was “something she came to make peace with” after many years, her son said Monday.

“It was a lovely role, and she was terrific in it,” Clemens said, “but it was hardly her greatest role. It was only in the last 10 years of her life that she became glad she had done the film. People of all ages know it.”

Eleanor Parker and Frank Sinatra in Otto Preminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm

Eleanor Parker and Frank Sinatra in Otto Preminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm

The Hollywood Reporter: Actress Eleanor Parker Dies at 91

eleanor_parker_a_pEleanor Parker, who somehow remained a Hollywood mystery woman despite a dazzling array of work that included three best actress Oscar nominations in the 1950s, has died. She was 91.

$(KGrHqR,!l4FBBsGrpJlBQR(kTTwk!~~60_57Parker earned her Oscar noms during a remarkable six-year span. She played a naive 19-year-old who transforms into a hardened convict in Caged (1950); starred as Kirk Douglas’ wife with a secret in William Wyler’s film noir Detective Story (1951); and portrayed real-life Australian opera star and polio victim Marjorie Lawrence in Interrupted Melody (1955) opposite Glenn Ford.

131209214644-eleanor-parker-horizontal-galleryDuring a career that spanned more than half a century, the Ohio native also starred as the smothering wife of recovering heroin addict Frank Sinatra in Otto Preminger’s tense The Man With the Golden Arm (1955); as a woman with three distinct personalities in the drama Lizzie (1957); and as the jealous baroness Elsa Schraeder in Robert Wise’s classic musical The Sound of Music (1965).

936full-eleanor-parkerScreenwriter William Ludwig, who shared an Oscar for his work on Interrupted Melody, wrote in a 1986 biography about Parker that moviegoers “didn’t go to her films to see Miss Parker being Miss Parker in a different dress or locale. You went to see that person she created on film.”

That ability for the real-life person to disappear onscreen led author Doug McClelland to title the biography Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces.

“I don’t always recognize myself when I see my own [still] pictures,” Parker said in the book. “Even to me, they look like Ingrid Bergman, Pat Neal, Myrna Loy, Joan Fontaine and Eleanor Powell at various times. I never look like me. Frankly, I think all this is wonderful. What woman doesn’t like a little mystery about herself?”

600full-eleanor-parker_originalEleanor Jean Parker was born on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio. Her father was a math teacher. At age 15, she attended the Rice Summer Theatre on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, earning her keep “by [ushering] and waiting on tables. They finally let me appear in one play, a bit in What a Life!,” she told The New York Times.

TCM Remembers Eleanor Parker (1922-2013)

eleanor-parker-portrait-everett

eleanorparker Woman in White and Naked Jungle. Both of those films fascinated me…I know Naked Jungle was a regular on Creature Feature…hell, Woman in White is haunting itself.

tumblr_ls5wnmy27X1qe7qp1o1_500These old movies, Gone With The Wind, Jane Eyre (Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine), Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Woman in White are the keys that opened that door to books…reading and my love for the written word.

The woman in white eleanor-parker-woman-in-white-promo-photo-2I read GWTW for the first time when I was 7 or 8 years old…It was a big deal for me, I remember taking it to school and reading it in the playground, all my friends would comment on how “thick” the book was.

Woman in White was the second “thick book” I read, I remember it vividly because after reading Gone With the Wind for the third time, I asked my mother to get me Wilkie Collins…having seen Eleanor Parker in the dual role on the local TV channel some late night.

Take a look at her in this scene from Woman in White…

Woman in White, The (1948) — (Movie Clip) I’m Afraid I’m Lost

Woman_in_White_LC_001

and then wander through the links above…and spend some time to enjoy these clips from her films. She was one of the best.

eleanor3

eleanor-parker

So be sure to watch Eleanor Parker on December 17th, on Turner Classic Movies….and spend the day with one hell of an actress.

Bracken's World - Season 1

Oh, what would I do if it wasn’t for TCM.

(They were going to show Tony Richardson’s Hamlet with Nicol Williamson on Dec. 17th. I had been waiting a year for them to show it again…I hope they schedule it again soon.

If you have not seen this version of Hamlet it is the best. It is something else you should not miss.)

Before we get to the other morning links, here is the TCM Remembers video for 2013:

Okay the rest of today’s stories are in link dump fashion.

Let the Grievances Commence! Festivus Poles Being Erected in Wisconsin, Florida Capitals | Mediaite

Let’s see if this counts as part of the War on Christmas™: Festivus poles are being erected in both the Wisconsin and Florida state capitals, alongside the other holiday… sorry, Christmas displays. The holiday, famously started by Seinfeld‘s Frank Costanza, has taken on a life of its own and been symbolically embraced by secular groups in the years since. And now they’re fighting for a place at the table. Sometimes it’s a giant A, sometimes it’s a giant pole.

Madison, Wisconsin boasts a giant, 30-foot Christmas tree at the capital, not to mention a secular version of the “room at the inn” including Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain, and also now happens to be home to a Festivus pole. The traditional airing of grievances will take place two days before Christmas, though sadly there will be no feats of strength.

Of course Fox found it a War on Christmas: Fox News host flips over atheist holiday display: ‘Baby Jesus is behind the Festivus pole!’ | The Raw Story

H/T Shakesville: 10 examples of Indian mascots “honoring” Native peoples | Native Appropriations

Sonic drive in MO

Indian mascots, they’re totes honoring to Native peoples, right? That’s what fans always tell us, at least. Inspired by this image above posted on twitter, from a Sonic in Benton, MO, I decided to take some time to compile a list of just a few instances of how these mascots totally “honor” Native people. This is just from memory, btw. There are so, so, so many more.

Charlie Pierce: Trans-Pacific Partnership Documents Released – Chickens Coming Home To Roost – Esquire

WikiLeaks and The Huffington Post have raised all kinds of unshirted hell this morning by publishing a trove of documents relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the gigantic new trade agreement which was negotiated largely in secret — unless, of course, you were a CEO or a lobbyist who worked for one — and which the administration is seeking to “fast-track” through Congress so as to avoid the kind of public scrutiny to which deals like this rarely stand up. OK, that last part’s me, but you get the point.

One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.

Read that and then look at this link that was in one of the comments on Charlie’s thread: Hightower Lowdown | The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about free trade. It’s a corporate coup d’etat–against us!

(Just linking it here…not sure on Hightower himself. Is he reliable?)

Special report from the New York Times: Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life – The New York Times

Kudos to Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa: Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa elected to Baseball Hall of Fame by veterans committee  – NY Daily News

Finally this cockroach is behind bars: Founder of revenge-porn site arrested in San Diego – SFGate

Oh and check out these cockroaches: Alien Cockroach Species Invading the U.S. – News Watch

Makes me think of that scene from Men in Black…

And finally: Rarest Orchid Species Rediscovered, Hochstetter’s Butterfly-Orchid Found In The Azores [PHOTO]

orchid

A team of botanists were surprised to Europe’s rarest orchid species growing in the Azores.  Richard Bateman

One of Europe’s rarest orchid species has been rediscovered in the Azores, a group of volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The discovery of the Hochstetter’s butterfly-orchid confirms that the islands support three kinds of orchid species, rather than one. The findings, published in the journal PeerJ, explains how the rare species was found.

So delicate and beautiful. Well, that is all folks…have a wonderful day and share your thoughts and stories with us.


Wednesday Reads: Purring Monkey, Spinning Atoms and Immigration Suits

fc66eb72eedbbd20793a50086d61c104Good Morning

I’ve got a mixed bag of goodies for you this morning. Let’s just get down to it shall we?

There is some news out of Alabama on the immigration front. Y’all remember those awful laws put on the books down in Sweet Home Alabama?  Well, there has been a settlement between the state and the ACLU. Settlement ends suits over Ala immigration law

The state of Alabama agreed Tuesday to settle the remaining challenges over its toughest-in-the-nation crackdown against illegal immigration, which has mostly been gutted by federal court decisions.

The state and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a proposed settlement that would end a federal lawsuit over the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, and the state separately filed documents to end a similar suit filed by the Justice Department. Federal courts later blocked main sections, including a one-of-a-kind provision that public schools must check students’ citizenship status.

[...]

ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang said the Alabama agreement also means a so-called “show me your papers” provision that allowed police to ask for citizenship documents cannot lead to detentions, as many immigrants had feared.

“Overall this is really a significant win for immigrant families in Alabama and anyone who cares about the rights of immigrants,” said Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project.

The agreement permanently blocks sections of the law that were temporarily stopped by courts. The state also agreed to pay $350,000 in attorney fees and expenses for groups that sued to block the law.

[...]

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which was heavily involved in the legal challenges, said legislators should repeal the act now that the state has settled the lawsuits.

“We warned the Legislature when they were debating HB 56 that if they passed this draconian law, we would sue in court and win,” Kristi Graunke, an attorney with the organization, said in a statement. “That we have done.”

That about sums it all up. Guess we will have to wait and see what the state will do with all this talk of immigration reform, cough…cough.

I am just going to put this next link here because it is a very depressing read. It’s a review of a book: Got His Gun — Lost His Legs, Arms, Penis

Ann Jones’ new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing.  In human terms, it’s overwhelming.

Okay, now on to a bit more “positive” news, via John Oliver: Australia Is An Example Of Effective Gun Control. America Is An Example Of Ignoring Australia.

The similarities between Australia and America are pretty striking. The enormous difference, however, is the distinct lack of pro-gun special-interest power in the Australian government. If that blows your mind, check this out: Australian gun control was enacted by conservative politicians against the will of their conservative constituency. If Australian politicians can overlook a powerful minority to pass something that a nationwide majority approves of, why can’t our own suits and ties do it too?

Trick or treat by Political Cartoonist David Fitzsimmons

139379 600 Trick or treat cartoons

Too funny….

Moving on rather quickly, next up: two articles on spinning and weaving, but not the way you may think. These have nothing to do with fiber:

Spinning atoms in light crystals

After more than 40 years of intense research, experimental physicists still seek to explore the rich behaviour of electrons confined to a two-dimensional crystalline structure exposed to large magnetic fields. Now a team of scientists working with Prof. Immanuel Bloch (Chair for Experimental Physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Director at MPQ) in collaboration with the theoretical physicist Dr. Belén Paredes (CSIC/UAM Madrid) developed a new experimental method to simulate these systems using a crystal made of neutral atoms and laser light. In such artificial quantum matter, the atoms could be exposed to a uniform effective magnetic field several thousand times stronger than in typical condensed matter systems.

Charged particles in a magnetic field experience a force perpendicular to their direction of motion — the Lorentz force -, which makes them move on circular (cyclotron) orbits in a plane perpendicular to the magnetic field. A sufficiently strong magnetic field can thereby dramatically change the properties of a material, giving rise to novel quantum phenomena such as the Quantum Hall effect. The cyclotron orbits shrink with increasing magnetic field. For typical field strengths, their size is much larger than the distance between neighbouring ions in the material, and the role of the crystal is negligible. However, for extremely large magnetic fields the two length scales become comparable and the interplay between the magnetic field and the crystal potential leads to striking new effects. These are manifested for instance in a fractal structure of the energy spectrum, which was first predicted by Douglas Hofstadter in 1976 and is known as the Hofstadter’s butterfly. Many intriguing electronic material properties are related to it, but so far experiments could not explore the full complexity of the problem.

Way over the top for my brain, especially now that I am so stuffed up and sick.

Now for the weaving article, but this is something more wicked and with a twist for Halloween: Looming Danger and Dangerous Looms: Violence and Weaving in Exeter Book Riddle 56

16th century depiction of a loom

The Loom Riddle: I was inside there where I saw a wooden object wounding a certain struggling creature, the wood turning; it received battle-wounds, deep gashes. Darts were woeful to that creature, and the wood skillfully bound fast. One of its feet was held fixed, the other endured affliction, leapt into the air, sometimes near the land. A tree, hung about by leaves, was near tot that bright thing [which] stood there, I saw the leavings of those arrows, carried out onto the floor to my lord, where the warriors drank.

Violence in the Exeter Book riddles is not a new topic. Many discussions of these fascinating texts focus on the way in which commonplace objects are personified and then attacked, bound, mutilated and/or killed. This violence, which is both carried out by humans and at the same time frequently punctuated by expressions of human empathy for the wounded objects, has been explained as acceptable because it occurs in the safe, playful and inverted world of the riddle.

It may not be a riddle that involves a giraffe, but you can go and read more of the abstract at the link, and get further information from Megan Cavell’s website.

Oh, this post is turning into more of a link dump than I thought it would. So I’ve got one more spooky story for you: Haunted Churches Will Give You The Shivers

Halloween comes just before Dia De Los Muertos, All Saints and All Soul’s Day, which are times to remember and honor the souls of those who have passed before us.

However, some churches claim that the spirits of the dead are still hanging around their hallways and graveyards. Mysterious lights, muffled voices, and weird apparitions are just some of the many unexplained phenomena that persist around these places.

From the ghost of a long-dead sea captain in Florida to the phantom of a governess that perished in a house fire, these churches swear that they are haunted by spirits that refuse to leave. Look through them, if you dare..

Dare…dare….(Well, for a little heathen like me, any church is bound to give me the shivers. ;) )

And lastly, Close To 500 New Species Discovered In The Amazon, Including A Purring Cat-Monkey

Monkey

Thanks to an intrepid team of scientists and the WWF, we know just a little bit more about our amazing planet. During a four-year expedition to the previously unexplored interior of the Amazon Rainforest, the team discovered 441 new species of life – including a purring monkey!

In total, the group discovered 258 new plants, 84 new fish, 58 new amphibians, 22 new reptiles, 18 new birds, and one new mammal – not to mention the innumerable new bugs they came across (in an unpleasant way, I’m sure).

The awesome new finds include a flame-patterned lizard, a frog the size of your thumbnail, a 9-pound vegetarian piranha, a snake they named after a character from The Lost World, a pink orchid – and, of course, the Callicebus caquentensis monkey, which purrs when contented.

That is wonderful…and surely it gives us reasons to protect this world we live in, we have to save the purring monkeys.

Well what are you reading and thinking about today? Go ahead and share with us down in the comments and have a happy Halloween eve.