Sunday Reads: I Witch I may, I Witch I might…

b2d2fed97ae3cb8d4b0f640a90a6ec08Good Mourning…

Yes, it seems that Halloween is coming early this year. All around us we see tricks being played out. Some are the sort of tricks played on people who must really be dumb as dirt to fall for them.

Progressives and libertarians came together in Washington on Saturday to protest widespread government surveillance, taking a tentative step towards creating a coalition that isn’t as awkward as the pairing might appear.

Organized by the coalition Stop Watching Us, which includes dozens of groups ranging from Internet freedom advocates to Tea Party organizations, the rally attracted hundreds of people to the Capitol Reflecting Pool to protest the electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency revealed by Edward Snowden this year. The crowd included Occupy protesters, Ron Paul libertarians, and even strict constitutionalist Oathkeepers. Yet despite some recent grumbling on the left about having to work with libertarians on the issue, attendees and speakers on both sides said they were happy to unite around a common enemy.

Seriously, who the hell would want to be associated with those crazy-ass Oathkeepers? (That link goes to a page over at Southern Poverty Law Center, Oathkeepers are a hate group you know…) Actually, these are not dumb people, that would be an insult to the stupid folks that do have low IQ as an excuse to become partnered with assholes like Ron Paul. So who spoke at this thing?

Onstage, speakers ranged from progressives like former congressman Dennis Kucinich to libertarians like Johnson and Rep. Justin Amash, as well as NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Jessalyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who visited Snowden in Russia two weeks ago and read a statement attributed to him for the crowd. Snowden was a central figure in absentia at the protest, with most people holding signs or wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his face.

The article says the rally was mostly “libertarian” in nature…but these are a few of the quotes you should not miss:

A recent article in Salon by progressive journalist Tom Watson had ruffled feathers by calling on liberals to boycott the really[sic] because of its libertarian elements. “I cannot support this coalition or the rally,” Watson wrote. “It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.” Watson described the Stop Watching Us coalition as “fatally infected.”

Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin rejected this premise in an interview with BuzzFeed next to the main speaker’s stage .

“Left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Benjamin said. Democrats and Republicans, she said, “both like the status quo. Libertarians or leftists are people who want to defend the values of this country and not have party politics and I think we’ve started coming around together on many of these issues.”

“I think that strange bedfellows around particular issues is the way that change has happened throughout history,” she said.

923f0d4eb1cba82cba3ad14e09f0b779Uh…first off, that Medea Benjamin needs to STFU. Its sounds to me like she is fatally ridiculous. I got a question for her. If left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore…How does she feel about the way the “right” values her uterus? Hmmmm…..lets see her libertarian friends get out and defend that part of this country…the 50 percent vagina part!

But wait, and hear it from an actual idiot himself, here’s another quote:

By all appearances at the Stop Watching Us rally, they did — though a bit warily. John McGloin, an Occupy protester from New York who described himself as a “sometimes” progressive, said he could accept working with libertarians to try and curtail government surveillance as long as they weren’t “people who think we should all fend for ourselves — that’s where I draw the line.”“We definitely need all the help we can get,” McGloin said.

3824f7d2bf57d3d02b94160798bb0508Hey buddy, that ain’t help, that is a hindrance!

Alright, up next: A few items on Rural America.

From the “You might be a redneck” theme of news reports, really the headline should say it all: Georgia man runs into burning home to save beer | abc13.com

COLUMBUS, GA (KTRK) — “I went back into the house like a dummy.” That’s what one man in Georgia said after he risked his life to save beer from his fridge while his house was on fire.

The flames broke out while six adults and two young children were watching TV. Everyone quickly made it outside safely.

But then Walter Serpit, who walks with a cane, rushed back into the burning building to save something near and dear to him.

“I told them to get the kids out and everything, and me myself, being an alcoholic, I was trying to get my beer out,” he said. “You feel me?”

Now, remember what I said up top about the folks who have a real excuse for partnering with those libertarian assholes? You feel me?

Walter made it out with a couple of cold ones, and the fire department made a statement that you should never run back into a burning building…period.

That story is actually sad and pathetic.

bbe24b789f085d912abe6483d2667dd2More bad news on the Obamacare front, from the New York Times: Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas

As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.

While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.

Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.

The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.

“There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,” said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. “I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.”

And that means that for those people who live out in areas like Banjoville, they are going to be hit with higher premiums because of lack of competition.

In rural Baker County, Ga., where there is only one insurer, a 50-year-old shopping for a silver plan would pay at least $644.05 before federal subsidies. (Plans range in price and levels of coverage from bronze to platinum, with silver a middle option.) A 50-year-old in Atlanta, where there are four carriers, could pay $320.06 for a comparable plan. Federal subsidies could significantly reduce monthly premiums for people with low incomes.

Counties with one carrier are mostly concentrated in the South. Nearly all of the counties in Mississippi and Alabama, for example, are served by just one insurer, according to The Times’s analysis. Other states with scarce competition include Maine, West Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska.

That is a long article, and there is an interactive map at the link too, so take a look at it.

58548dea0a1af4177e71c9ee013059fbSince we are on the subject of healthcare, what about an article on madness…with a witchy twist: 7 Countries That Still Kill Accused Witches

You know how the long-ago witch hunts were stupid and hateful? What a relief those days are over.

Except they’re not. In many countries, people are still killed on suspicion of witchcraft. United Nations experts cautioned in 2009 that murders of women and children accused of sorcery were on the rise. Following are just a few of many examples from around the world.

1. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s religious police department has an official Anti-Witchcraft Unit that it dispatches to catch sorcerers and break their spells. In 2007, the Saudis executed an accused sorcerer. A woman awaiting the death penalty for alleged witchcraft died in prison.

Like the New England witch hunters of yore, those in Saudi Arabia use magic as a convenient excuse to silence inconvenient people. Accusations of sorcery have been leveled against foreign women working as domestics for Saudi families who charge their employers with sexual assault, according to Saudi Arabia expert Christoph Wilcke.

2. Tanzania

This east African country killed approximately 600 elderly women on charges of witchcraft just two years ago. The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found a strong and pervasive belief in magic among Tanzanians. It sometimes leads to reverence rather than murder. One woman who claims to be a witch charges between $20 and $120 for services including medical cures and exorcisms — in a country where the average income is under two dollars a day.

The other five countries are more disturbing in their descriptions, so you can read them at the link if you like.

59be152a9d9296ccfee540684e2ffa2aHey, since that last article was on the morbid side, let’s have another: What would you choose for your last meal? Final food choices of executed criminals revealed… and they throw up a few oddball selections

Florida has revealed the final food choices of executed criminals, throwing up a number of eccentric final meals in the process.

While many of those spending their last day alive decide to go for the final indulgence of a heaving plate of fatty, fried food and a giant bowl of ice cream, others opt for more Spartan fare – requesting homemade sandwiches or just a simple cup of coffee.

That is one you need to click and read. Wow….

I want to bring you updates on a few other stories that we have discussed on the blog the past couple of weeks, and this will be in a link dump:

Macy’s joins Barneys in NYC ‘shop-and-frisk’ scandal | Reuters

New York civil rights leaders on Saturday decried the city’s brewing “shop-and-frisk” scandal, in which major retailers Barneys and Macy’s are accused of profiling black shoppers who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items.

Tennessee judge who barred baby name ‘Messiah’ rebuked by conduct panel for religious bias | The Raw Story

A magistrate court judge in Tennessee who forced a couple to change the name of their child from Messiah to Martin has been cited for religious bias by a state ethics panel and will face a disciplinary hearing.

Lu Ann Ballew, a child support magistrate in Cocke County of eastern Tennessee, had been settling a dispute about child support and the last name of Messiah Deshawn MCCullough, the child of Jaleesa Martin, and Jawaan McCullough. Neither parent had expressed interest in changing the child’s first name.

b89adc37ebe0fb06a85ff451748ef8bfThe Psychology of Online Comments : The New Yorker

Several weeks ago, on September 24th, Popular Scienceannounced that it would banish comments from its Web site. The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse. “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” wrote the online-content director Suzanne LaBarre, citing a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence. While it’s tempting to blame the Internet, incendiary rhetoric has long been a mainstay of public discourse. Cicero, for one, openly called Mark Antony a “public prostitute,” concluding, “but let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery.” What, then, has changed with the advent of online comments?

Anonymity, for one thing. According to a September Pew poll, a quarter of Internet users have posted comments anonymously. As the age of a user decreases, his reluctance to link a real name with an online remark increases; forty per cent of people in the eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-old demographic have posted anonymously. One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog.

I’ve got a few on Fukushima alone:

8 months, 10 mishaps: A look at Fukushima errors – The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper

The Global Threat of Fukushima » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Special Report: Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters | Reuters

With a Plant’s Tainted Water Still Flowing, No End to Environmental Fears – NYTimes.com

Some of those are long articles, so they will take some time.

467f8b89bac3307821e0c15b9528c1ebAnd to end this post today, a couple of stories with Boston Boomer in mind…

UK linguist reconstructs sounds of prehistoric language

What did our ancestors sound like in the 50th century B.C.? University of Kentucky linguistics lecturer Andrew M. Byrd examines ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Old English) and the language from which they derive, Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.

PIE is the prehistoric ancestor of hundreds of languages, including English, Spanish, Greek, Farsi, Armenian, and more. The language is typically thought to have been in use around 7,000 years ago, though some suspect it was spoken at an even earlier time.

According to some archaeologists and the majority of linguists like Byrd, the people who spoke PIE were located just to the north of the Black Sea and were likely the first to tame horses, and perhaps even to invent the wheel.

The primary focus of Byrd’s work is to understand what this language would have sounded when it was spoken millennia ago. Byrd says this all begins by looking at similarities in other languages.

“We start by gathering words, such as ‘king,’ from languages that we think are related and then find the common threads among them,” he said. “When you bring these words together, you’ll see that all of the words meaning ‘king’ or ‘ruler’ begin with something like an ‘r’ followed by a long vowel. Through examining trends in each , you can tell which parts of the word have changed over time, and working backward from that … you can peer into the past and get an idea of what PIE might have sounded like.”

I know that BB worked with language in children for her doctorate, so that article will be something cool for her to read about. This second one will be just a joke…because she is my number one when it comes to grammar…and boy do I need her help…

Test Your Grammar Know-How (Or Shame Your Friends) With This Quick Grammar Game | Geekosystem

Are you forever trolling the internet, commenting on posts with incorrect grammar? Do your friends consider you a “Grammar Nazi?” Well, you better put your money where your mouth is, and test your grammar skills using Grammatically Speaking, a quick little grammar game we found online!

Grammar

Grammatically Speaking tests all your grammar know-how, from proper punctuation, to the proper use of “that” or “which” in a sentence. Our favorite part of the test is that it shows you what percentage of users got each question wrong – for example, people are particularly terrible at “it’s” vs. “its” and when to use “me” vs. “I.”

It is fortunate that I have BB to come and fix my post when my grammar is way…way off the mark.  I tend to write like I talk, and then I never could grasp all that proper English stuff anyway.

This is all I have for you this morning. Have a wonderful day, and please leave a comment or two below…so, what are you thinking and reading about today?


Wednesday Reads: Link Dump in the Morning

chF3Good Morning

Just a link dump today, so think of this morning’s post as an open thread.

In US news, 1 dead in same NC motel room where 2 died in April

North Carolina police are investigating why an 11-year-old South Carolina boy died and his mother was injured in the same motel room where two elderly guests were found dead almost two months ago.

Yeah, two months go by without anyone knowing that the first two people died from carbon monoxide poisoning? And they still had people using the room?

BOONE, N.C.: NC health dept.: Poison gas not in pool inspection

Inspectors checked a motel where three people were presumed killed by carbon monoxide fumes six weeks before anyone died, but their review didn’t include investigating for the poisonous gas, the local health agency said Tuesday.The Appalachian District Health Department said it inspected the swimming pool at the Best Western Blue Ridge Plaza in Boone six weeks before a Longview, Wash., couple were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in their motel room. Boone Police Sgt. Shane Robbins said the room is near the indoor pool, which is warmed by a natural gas heater.

Turns out the local coroner who did the autopsy report missed the carbon monoxide in the first couple. You can see a video report here: Hotel Room Where 3 Died Had Carbon Monoxide Leak | Video – ABC News

Here is another southeastern news story for you, but it touches on something that we have been talking about for months: 4 Ga. youth lockups among worst for sex assaults

The results of the 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody included four Georgia juvenile detention centers among a list of 13 with the highest rates of sexual misconduct nationally. The data, released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, was based on anonymous surveys completed by 8,707 youth randomly sampled from at least one facility in every state and the District of Columbia.

The four Georgia facilities were a regional youth detention center in Paulding County; the Eastman Youth Development Campus in Dodge County; the Augusta YDC in Richmond County; and the Sumter YDC in Americus, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Paulding County facility led the nation with 32.1 percent of youth inmates reporting last year that they were victimized sexually by staff or other juveniles. That was more than three times the national rate of 9.5 percent.

The survey results were released as Georgia tries to overhaul its juvenile justice system, which has been plagued by reports of attacks on teenage inmates and abusive behavior by staff members.

Researchers found that 15.8 percent of the 497 juveniles in Georgia’s criminal justice system who were surveyed had had a sexual encounter with a staff member, which is a felony even if it is deemed consensual. Just at the four Georgia facilities cited among the worst in the nation, nearly 300 boys reported sexual abuse last year.

Niles, the state commissioner, said the state has been working to build a “reporting culture” among the youth in custody and said officials had expected an increased number of survey responses from Georgia.

“DJJ will take a hard look at this,” Niles said. “DJJ will always teach our youth to break the silence and say ‘NO’ to sexual abuse.”

Just say no to sex abuse? Gee…yeah like that is going to go far in changing the “culture” of reporting sex abuse.

Speaking of which, Allen West And Michael Savage’s Dismissal Of Military Rape Exemplifies Why It Is So Under-Reported -

On Thursday’s airing of right-wing wackadoodle Michael Savage’s radio program, Savage Nation, Allen West agreed with Savage’s assertion that “Khmer Rouge feminists” are attempting a “coup” against the military by proposing to change the military chain of command in sexual assault cases. Allen West also took the opportunity to blame sexual assault on Liberals for allowing women in combat. Savage began with an audio recording of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) proposing a change in the way sexual assault cases are handled. The Senator wants the cases to be handled outside the victim’s chain of command. Savage, clearly not in favor of this proposal said the Senator sounded like a “college chick at a dorm” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) and made the Feminist claim:

 SAVAGE: “When I watch these Khmer Rouge feminists try to take over the military, this looked like an attempted coup to me, Colonel West.”

WEST: “Nah, you’re absolutely right and that’s a big concern that I have because when you start to get — you know, I understand civilian oversight of the military. We all understand that as all officers who served in uniform. But when you start to have this interjection of, you know, political, you know, will against, you know, the military, good order and discipline, where you start to try to usurp the commanders’ authority and I guess replace it with some type of political, legal officers, and things of that nature. Then the next thing you know, it goes from just dealing with this, you know, sexual assault thing to, you know, making decisions on the battlefield.”

Yes, because wanting a to change the way rapes are handled is clearly a military coup. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that many perpetrators of rape get away with it because they are buddy-buddy with their commanding officer. It has nothing to do with the fact that military rape is less likely to be reported than civilian rape because of the stigma attached to it. Nope. That’s not it at all.

Oh, the misogyny didn’t stop there. It’s not enough that the two pigs insulted lawmakers that are fighting for justice for thousands and thousands and thousands of rape victims; No, they also had to insult the actual victims of these rapes and call into question whether or not there is a wide scale problem:

SAVAGE: … Am I mistaken in assuming the following: When you say sexual assault, according to the new liberal interpretation of such a phrase, does that not include, “Hey honey, let’s go for a beer?” Could she turn him in and say that was a sexual assault because it was an unwanted advance?

WEST: Well she could. I mean that’s the –

SAVAGE: Alright, so amongst the 23,000 — amongst the 23,000 so-called cases that the Commander-in-Chief Obama talked about last, two weeks ago, at a commencement address, how many of them are fraudulent claims? We don’t know, do we?

WEST: No we don’t. And furthermore, Dr. Savage, we don’t know how many of them are female against male, you know, sexual assaults, or same-sex sexual assaults. So we don’t have those numbers either.

There is absolutely no doubt that the military has a rape problem. The Pentagon estimates that there were 26,000 rapes in 2012. A six percent rise from the previous year. Military rapes and sexual assaults reach over 70 per day. The head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program was charged with assaulting a woman. Furthermore, only 34% of women and 24% of men report assaults. All of this information is easily available to Savage and West, but they choose to stay ignorant and spread they’re filth over the airwaves. These are the kind of comments that motivates victims of sexual assault to stay silent.

Like I said, this is a link dump so…

In nation’s breadbasket, Latinos stuck in poverty

On a warm spring day, farmworker Cristina Melendez was bedridden and unable to make her way back into the asparagus fields of central California for the kind of backbreaking work she’s done since childhood.

The 36-year-old mother of seven was desperate. Her bank account had been at zero for months, the refrigerator was nearly empty, and she didn’t have enough to cover the rent. Lacking health insurance, Melendez couldn’t see a doctor or afford medication, so her illness dragged on – and another day came and went without work or pay.

A native of Mexico who was smuggled into the United States as a child, Melendez had once dreamed big: to be a bilingual secretary, to own a house and a car, to become a U.S. citizen. Agriculture, she hoped, would be the springboard to a better life – for her and her U.S.-born children, the next generation of a family whose past and future are deeply rooted in the fertile earth of America’s breadbasket.

California’s San Joaquin Valley is one of the richest agricultural regions in the world, with Fresno County farmers receiving a record $6.8 billion in revenues last year. But the region also consistently ranks among the nation’s most impoverished. Sometimes called “Appalachia of the West,” it’s where families, especially Hispanic immigrants and their children, live year after year in destitution.

Boston Boomer sent me this link yesterday, The Most Epic Supercell Thunderstorm Footage You Will See Today «TwistedSifter

The Booker Supercell

Take a look at that link for more images.

No more ferry tales for New Orleans | Grist

Come the end of this month, New Orleans may lose its one and only ferry, thanks to a state uncommitted to keeping it financially afloat and a city even less sure about who’s responsible for keeping it from going under. This is the ferry that since 1827 has crossed the Mississippi River, transporting “West Bank” residents to jobs downtown. It’s the ferry featured in the HBO series Treme that carries the populist scold Creighton Bernette, a hopeless romantic for New Orleans, to his death at the end of the first season. Now, with its original funding stream dammed off for good, the ferry’s own ending is imminent.

Your Hidden Censor: What Your Mind Will Not Let You See: Scientific American

…when attention is occupied with one thing, people often fail to notice other things right before their eyes.

The Ghosts of Europe Past

THE cheerleaders of the European Union like to think of it as an entirely new phenomenon, born of the horrors of two world wars. But in fact it closely resembles a formation that many Europeans thought they had long since left to the dustbin of history: the Holy Roman Empire, the political commonwealth under which the Germans lived for many hundreds of years.

Some might take that as a compliment; after all, the empire lasted for almost a millennium. But they shouldn’t. If anything, today’s Europe still has to learn the lessons of the empire’s failures.

Then you have this little shit at Fox, here is a laugh. I had found this last link while looking at the way Fox News, Drudge and other news outlets were covering the latest California shootout as it was happening. As you might as well have guessed Fox News and Drudge had nothing on their websites alerting to the shooting, ABC News also was downplaying the shooting as well. Even after the crisis was over, to find any news coverage of the “event” on Fox News you had to go searching for a link to an article. Anyway, here is some of the quality reporting over at Fox News. Like I said, it is just a little shit but it is funny in a racial/hypocritical/typical asshole Fox News way:  Baby names reveal parents’ political ideology | Fox News

Quick, make a guess: Are Liam’s parents Obama voters, or did they pull for John McCain? How about Kurt’s mom and dad?

If your gut suggested that Kurt’s parents might swing conservative while Liam’s are liberal, congratulations. A new study of baby names does, indeed, show that parents in liberal neighborhoods are more likely to choose softer, more feminine sounds, such as “L,” for their babies’ names, while conservative parents go for macho-sounding K’s, B’s and D’s.

The same research finds that liberal, well-educated parents are more likely to pick obscure names for their children, while conservative, well-educated parents take a more conventional naming path. Both methods seem to be a way of signaling status, said study researcher Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago though it’s unlikely parents realize what they’re doing.

Okay so you can probably guess where this is going, look at this:

Lots of research has focused on American political polarization, particularly whether liberals and conservatives in the general public are moving further apart. Some possible examples of the gulf focus on consumer choices, including stereotypes like Whole Foods-loving liberals and Walmart-shopping conservatives.
[...]

The results revealed that overall, the less educated the parent, the more likely they were to give their child either an uncommon name (meaning fewer than 20 children got the same name that year in California), or a unique name (meaning only one child got that name in 2004 in California). When parents had less than a college education, there were no major ideological differences in naming choice.

However, among college-educated whites, politics made a difference. College-educated moms and dads in the most liberal neighborhoods were twice as likely as college-educated parents in the most conservative neighborhoods to give their kids an uncommon name. Educated conservatives were more likely to favor popular names, which were defined as names in the top 100 in California that year.

For boys, 46 percent got a popular name in conservative areas, compared with 37 percent in liberal areas. For girls, 38 percent were given a popular name in conservative neighborhoods, compared with 30 percent in liberal neighborhoods.

Notably, the kinds of uncommon names chosen by upper-class liberals differed from the unusual names picked by people of lower socioeconomic status, Oliver said. Lower-status moms tend to invent names or pick unusual spellings of common names (Andruw instead of Andrew, for example).

“Educated liberal mothers are not making names up,” Oliver said. “They’re choosing more culturally obscure names, like Archimedes or Finnegan or, in our case, we named our daughter Esme.”

[...]
The liberal Obamas named their daughters Sasha and Malia, both names heavy on As and Ls, whereas the conservative Palin family picked more masculine-sounding names for both their boys and girls, particularly Track, Trig, Bristol and Piper (although third daughter Willow got a softer-sounding moniker).

What, so no comment about the “unconventional” names that Palin picked for her brood?

Anyway, that is all I got for you now, have a great day.


A Thursday Afternoon Link Dump…

Good evening, y’all!

It’s a new season, by that I mean basketball. So tonight I am off to watch my daughter cheer for her b-ball team here in Banjoville.

Tonight’s reads have a mixture of stories for you, and I hope that you find them interesting.

I’ve got a couple of stories on dinosaurs, one real and one metaphorical…I start the post with one…and finish with one, you know how I have to have some sort of method to my madness.

On that dinosaur they call the GOP, this op/ed from Alex Jakubowski at the Daily Caller caught my eye, of all the shit spewing from the mouths of the right, this was the one voice that had any sort of genuine reason and thought. Give it a read in full, and then take a peek at the comments…of course it will never reach through those right-wing nut’s thick skulls, but it is nice to think so…anyway, here it is: My father’s party

We lost. We lost in 2008. We lost in 2012. We can say we won in 2010, but why bother? What gains did we achieve? How did we really help everyday Americans by replacing the Democratic-controlled House with a Republican one? The answer: We didn’t. We didn’t pass a single piece of important legislation and we did nothing to improve the quality of life for the American people.

[...]

I have been a Republican for as long as I can remember. As far back as fourth grade I remember listening to my father talk about capitalism, individualism, and the pursuit of the dream that makes America different from every other place on Earth. Though I didn’t quite understand why at the time, my father instilled these ideas in me in order to teach me why I should always be proud of my country, the only country willing to take my family in after the terrible atrocities we faced in the Holocaust. My father has always been a Republican, and in many ways I inherited my beliefs from him.

But the party my father raised me in was never a party of absolutes: our party was one of progress, one of thought, and most of all one that believed that compromise was a trait to be honored, not despised. My father’s party, and the one I have claimed to be a part of for years, was never ashamed to work with others to do what was right, and what would move the American people forward.

Every day I have conversations with liberal friends who have vastly different beliefs than I do about the ideal way to solve the problems our great country faces. We talk about welfare and government dependence; we talk about taxes and shared sacrifice; we talk about immigration and national security; yet never once has any of my countless conversations with friends resulted in anything but an honest, open conversation about ways we can put aside our ideological differences to find a middle ground — one on which we can move forward for the benefit of all.

But in the end we always realize that our grand conversations, our amazing ideas of compromise and political altruism are all for naught. With both parties as they are now, none of our grand ideas have any chance of becoming a political reality. In a world where simply working with the other side is seen as a political liability, how can we hope to move forward as a generation?

He talks about the need for moderation, understanding and compromise…which is far from the rest of the articles and commentary out there after Romney lost the election.
As a life-long Republican, and after enduring two straight embarrassing losses, I can no longer sit by and wait for things to change. The party in which I was raised did not dictate to others how they must set policies on immigration, marriage, and abortion; the party in which I was raised thought sensibly about how to work with the other side and compromise, achieving at least in part the goals of all for the sake of the nation. As a dear friend and fellow moderate Republican recently said in an argument I have become far too familiar with, “Disagreement is not a threat to your own views.” In fact, disagreement is what can propel us forward, what can drive us to discover what policies can truly change our society for the better.

If our party is to truly change, as it is now clear it must, our focus needs to change as well. No longer can we count on a conservative, Evangelical base to provide the necessary votes to sweep a candidate into office. The party must abandon its hardline positions on abortion, immigration, gay marriage, and many other issues — many of which alienate those who are supposed to make up the future of our movement. Perhaps none said it better than moderate Republican Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado: “After tonight, the GOP had better figure out that a big tent sounds good but if there aren’t any seats in it, what good is it?” We must learn to embrace the fact that no matter our disagreements, those on the other side of any issue are not our opponents — they are our friends. No matter the difference, no matter the issue, we can and have to work together.

The United States has always moved forward on the premise that we can do better; I know now that we can, and I hope that together, we will.

Hey, that kind of talk will get you run out on a rail in the Fox News world, but I do think the possibilities of a “better tomorrow, tomorrow” are a reasonable hope some of us can have. Even if it is only a pipe dream.

More on the dinosaur party and it’s fanatics:

It’s Rove’s Fault! Bush’s Brain Is in the GOP Crosshairs

Why Does the GOP Keep Generating Extremists?

Jon Stewart: There Was an Avalanche on Fox News’ Bullsh*# Mountain on Election Night

The last days of Romneyland

Dumb Money, Mission Accomplished

California to reform a law on Tuesday, one I think is very good. California Voters Scrap Draconian “Three Strikes” Law

After nearly 20 years and over $20 billion spent, California voters have voted overwhelmingly to reform our state’s draconian “three strikes” law. The statewide ballot measure,  Proposition 36 , delivered a two-to-one mandate (68.6%-31.4%) to close a controversial loophole in the law so that life sentences can only be imposed when the new felony conviction is “serious or violent.”

Three strikes laws, often known as habitual offender laws, grew out of the “tough on crime” era of the 1980s and 90s. Between 1993 and 1995, 24 states passed some kind of three strikes law, but California’s 1994 three strikes ballot measure was especially harsh.

While the 1994  law required the first and second strike to be either violent or serious, any infraction could trigger a third strike and the life sentence that went with it. Therefore, petty offenses – such as stealing a piece of pizza – have led to life imprisonment for thousands of people.

Read more at the link, the best thing is that people who have been given life for petty crimes are able to request a lesser sentence, that is very fair in my opinion and in the end will help with prison overcrowding. So this should be good for many all around.

Many New York hospitals are still without power: New York’s Ongoing Blackout: Hospitals in Lower Manhattan

And there is new documents released in connection with HARP: Read the Documents Treasury Has Been Keeping Secret

This next post from the Grio made me smile…Sasha Obama’s Election Night advice to president caught on tape: ‘Behind you!’

President Barack Obama walks on stage with daughter Sasha to deliver his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Barack Obama walks on stage with daughter Sasha to deliver his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It was a quick but instantly memorable moment on Election Night.

When President Barack Obama and the first family greeted an enormous crowd of supporters after being re-elected, his 11-year-old daughter Sasha got his famous enlarged ear and said “Behind you!”

The president quickly turned and acknowledged a big group of supporters he had previously ignored and waved to them, eliciting big cheers.

On a historical note, check out this abstract from Medieval.net: Of Kings and Popes and Law

Abstract: During the latter half of the 11th century through to the end of the 13th century, Europe was experiencing what is considered by some historians as “the” medieval renaissance, otherwise referred to as the European Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. The time appears to have been ripe for an explosion of cultural and intellectual advancement and change. Two fields that experienced significant development during that period were law and governance, both secular and ecclesiastical.

In England, the period which most legal historians consider to be the key formative years of the common law was the reign of King Henry II. Indeed, Sir William Holdsworth credits Henry II for “substituting one common law for that confused mass of local customs of which the law of England had formerly consisted”. But as R.H. Helmholz said, “legal history, like any other, is a history of winners, and the history of the losing side is often overlooked. That we only hint of the history of the canon law by reference to the common law is a fact of life and not to be lamented”. However, he admonishes us not to ignore the intrinsic importance of the jurisdiction once exercised by the courts of the Church in the development of the law of England.

I take up Helmholz’ challenge in this thesis and examine the relationship that developed between the English royal authorities and the Latin (Western) Christian Church from the beginning of the reign of Edward the Confessor to the end of the reign of King John. Through a review of cases reported by the Selden Society from the royal courts of Henry II, Richard I and John, I then focus my research on the 62 year period between the beginning of the reign of Henry II and the death of John, and consider the influence of the Church and State relationship on the structure and processes of the developing English royal law and its scope.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Victoria

Henry Plantagenet has always fascinated me…maybe it was my interest in his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine that caused me to admire Henry, but there it is.

And finally, that other dinosaur: New Dinosaur Xenoceratops Discovered In Canada

Everybody, meet Xenoceratops foremostensis, a brand new species of ceratopsid, or horned dinosaur, discovered in the plentiful fossil beds of Canada. Weighing in at 2 tons and about 20 feet long, Xenoceratops — meaning “alien-horned face” — lived about 80 million years ago, making it one of the oldest big-bodied horned dinosaurs known to paleontologists.

Though it has only recently been identified as a separate species, xenoceratops was identified from fossils discovered in 1958, only to be misidentified for several decades before taking its rightful place as a separate species.

Well, that is all I have time for, catch ya later in the comments!

This is an open thread.


Wednesday Reads: Big Bang July 4th Edition

Good Morning!

It’s July 4th!

So, in honor of those big firework shows that are probably canceled throughout the US, I will bring y’all a special edition of the evening reads, so be sure to check it out.

Now, however…this morning’s post we’ll be catching up on world news reports, and a few other stories to make your day.

First a warning, some of the news is upsetting and graphic.

In Syria, there is a report that exposes how Syria is running 27 torture centres, says rights group

 Syrian intelligence agencies are running torture centers across the country where detainees are beaten with batons and cables , burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and their fingernails torn out, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.

The New York-based rights group identified 27 detention centers that it says intelligence agencies have been using since President Bashar al-Assad’s government began a crackdown in March 2011 on pro-democracy protesters trying to oust him.

Human Rights Watch conducted more than 200 interviews with people who said they were tortured…

I won’t post the rest, safe to say that it is not an enjoyable read.

In Mexico, the new president-elect is making some key decisions. Mexico’s president-elect may double security spending: aide

Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto will seek to double security spending to around 2 percent of GDP to fight drug violence and organized crime while proposing new tactics to the United States, a top aide said on Tuesday.

Emilio Lozoya, touted as a possible pick for foreign minister, said Pena Nieto’s administration would try to boost efforts to tackle money laundering and propose trans-border infrastructure projects to help create jobs, cut business costs and increase security.

“Today Mexico is investing a bit less than 1 percent of gross domestic product (in security) which is low and clearly not enough to confront this problem,” Lozoya told Reuters in an interview. “Investment on security needs to double at least.”

The aide continued…

Pena Nieto proposes focusing efforts on projects that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border such as tunnels and high-tech border crossings, which would create jobs, boost security and promote economic development, Lozoya said.

He said there was also scope for cooperation to fight money laundering and that the United States could help Mexico by stopping automatic weapons from crossing the border and feeding drug gang violence.

“There is a lot that can be done to combat money laundering in particular,” Lozoya said. “We are not getting the results that we want. … The United States can make an additional effort to reduce the flow of arms from there into Mexico.”

In other world news, the State Department released this statement last night: Statement by Secretary Clinton on her Call With Pakistani Foreign Minister Khar

I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.

As I told the former Prime Minister of Pakistan days after the Salala incident, America respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and is committed to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.

In today’s phone call, Foreign Minister Khar and I talked about the importance of taking coordinated action against terrorists who threaten Pakistan, the United States, and the region; of supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability, and efforts towards reconciliation; and of continuing to work together to advance the many other shared interests we have, from increasing trade and investment to strengthening our people-to-people ties. Our countries should have a relationship that is enduring, strategic, and carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of both our nations and the region.

You can read the rest at the link, it seems that relations between the US and Pakistan are feeling a little less heated, Clinton Says ‘Sorry’ to Pakistan, Afghan Supply Lines to Re-Open

gty hillary clinton jef 120703 wblog Clinton Says Sorry to Pakistan, Afghan Supply Lines to Re Open

Image credit: Laurent Gillieron/AFP/Getty Images

“Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives.  We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military.”

The word “sorry” has never been used by the U.S. government since the incident, instead choosing to express regrets and condolences.   The Pakistani government has been demanding an apology before it would consider re-opening NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, which were closed after the incident.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman issued a statement that the country accepts Secretary Clinton’s statement and hopes that the two reluctant  allies can move forward.

” We appreciate Secretary Clinton’s statement, and hope that bilateral ties can move to a better place from here,” said Reham. “I am confident that both countries can agree on many critical issues, especially on bringing peace to the region.”

Yesterday Ralph mentioned a link about the Plantation State we’ve been discussing lately. Probation Fees Multiply as Companies Profit –  It was an important story and I thought it should be put up on the front page.

Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.

When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.

It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.

“With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. “The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”

Please read the rest at the link.

In another part of the US, this time South Carolina a Drunk Driver Kills Son; Grieving Mom Must Pay For Clean-Up

A coroner in Greenville, South Carolina, called Loretta Robinson in June, 2011, and told her that her oldest son, Justin Walker, had died when his car was struck by a drunken driver.

This must be every parent’s worst nightmare.

As Robinson told WYFF4. com,

“I never would have imagined getting that call,” she said. “Never in one million years expected that.”

You might imagine that nothing could make this worse, but you would be wrong: Robinson has since been slapped with several bills in connection with the accident, including one to clean the street of her son’s blood.

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up these days…

She was in court on June 19, and looked Anna Gonzalez, the accused driver, in the eye as Gonzalez pleaded guilty. Justin Walker, Robinson’s deceased son, was not found at fault for the accident.

From WYFF:

The grieving mother then showed the judge the many bills she’s had to pay, even though her son was not at fault.

Robinson said she paid to have the wrecked car stored for months, in case there was a trial.

“I had to pay to have the vehicle towed,” she said. “I had to pay for the vehicle removed and to clean up the street from Justin’s blood on the ground.”

Robinson said that was the bill that stung the most – paying $50 to have the street cleaned.

“First of all, having to open the mail and look at the charge to the deceased, Justin Darryl Walker — the deceased! It’s just a hard thing to deal with in the context of your child,” she said.

That’s right: Robinson is being charged $50 for the removal of her son’s blood from the scene of the accident, even though her son was not at fault. How insensitive can the system get?

Robinson has not been able to work because of all the stress and emotional grief, she received some funds from the SC State Office of Victims Assistance, but it was not enough to pay for the cleaning fees. I just don’t understand why she is being charged for this in the first place.

Let’s move on to another car accident, this time a hit and run…John Bryson Had Ambien In System, But Prosecutors Decline To Charge

A report released on Tuesday revealed that former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson was driving with a small amount of the sleep drug Ambien in his system when he was involved in multiple collisions in Southern California last month.

Despite that, prosecutors declined to charge Bryson with any crimes, saying it was not clear the drug had anything to do with the bizarre June 9 collisions and that a seizure was more likely to blame.

Bryson resigned from President Obama’s cabinet on June 21 after revelations that he had crashed his Lexus into another car, drove away and then crashed into a second car minutes later in a neighboring city.

Well, Bryson’s actions still seem strange to me, but with all these zombie freak attacks going on in the world, I guess his odd behavior is nothing to get worked up about.

Casey Anthony Wears Caylee’s Cremated Remains Around Her Neck, Report Says Oops, I guess I spoke too soon about freakish behavior.

Casey Anthony is reportedly wearing a constant reminder of her daughter, Caylee – a necklace that contains cremated remains of the deceased two-year-old.

According to People, the locket containing Caylee’s ashes was a gift to the 26-year-old from her mom, Cindy. The magazine also reports Cindy Anthony wears a matching necklace.

Geez, now that is one story that gets me running for a bucket and a cleaning lady…ugh.

(See, I told you these stories were going to make your day!)

Mandatory Ultrasounds Not Enough In Virginia Yup, I am going from one stomach turning link to another.

As Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law goes into effect the state has released a list of places that a woman or girl can go to obtain a free ultrasound, purportedly to help defer the additional expense incurred with the procedure. The problem is, the list is made up almost exclusively of crisis pregnancy centers.

The Virginia law requires a girl or woman who needs to terminate a pregnancy obtain an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure, regardless if one is medically warranted or not. The states that a “qualified medical professional trained in sonography and working under the supervision of a physician licensed in the Commonwealth shall perform fetal transabdominal ultrasound imaging on the patient undergoing the abortion for the purpose of determining gestational age.” CPC’s often perform ultrasounds, but they just don’t always have medical professionals, so there’s no guarantee that an ultrasound performed by the CPC’s identified by the state would even meed the law’s requirements.

It gets worse. CPC’s are independently run women’s health “centers” that often fall outside the bounds of state regulation and oversight. A woman or girl who has an ultrasound at one of these CPC’s has no guarantee her medical information will remain private, nor does she have any guarantee the center will even turn over the image.

I wish someone would light some firecrackers under the asses of some of the legislators in Virginia, and give these douche bags a sparkling orifice to stick their PLUB ultrasound wands.
Of course, we can’t talk about dickheads without mentioning Rep. Joe Walsh… Blasts Double Amputee’s Military Service, Says She’s Not A ‘True Hero’
Though he never joined the military himself, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) disparaged his Democratic opponent’s military service at a town hall on Sunday, saying that she’s not a “true hero.”Walsh is running against Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee who lost both her legs in Iraq when insurgents hit her helicopter with an RPG in 2004.The Tea Party freshman opened the Elk Grove town hall by arguing that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was reluctant to discuss his own military service in 2008, which made him a “noble hero.” By contrast, “Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about,” Walsh said.

Video at the link.

I have a couple other political links for you, Which states have the most to lose if their governors reject Medicaid expansion? | theGrio

The Supreme Court has declared that states can opt out of the provision in the Affordable Care Act that expands Medicaid coverage (at the federal government’s expense for the first three years, and with states paying a small percentage of the cost after that) to people under age 65 who reach up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. But which states stand to lose the most if their governors say “thanks, but no thanks,” to the Medicaid funds? We ranked them based on the Kaiser Family Foundation data on the states with the highest rates of children currently being covered by Medicaid the percentage have no health insurance (via their parents or the government) at all.

Be sure to check out the states at the link…
And then, this one is a “must read” article:  UFO Sightings Are More Common Than Voter Fraud | Mother Jones
I won’t quote from that one, because there are just too many juicy tidbits to choose from. Just go read it.
Well, don’t think today’s post is all bad news,  Pilgrims’ Progress: Nuns Return Home After Bus Tour Against Ryan Budget
Good for them!
nunsbus.banner.getty.jpg

Sister Simone Campbell stands in front of her bus during a stop in Harrisburg, Pa., on June 28. (Getty Images)

Last week, the most famous old lady on a bus was Karen Klein, whose torment by a couple of middle school monsters in Greece, New York, went viral (8 million clicks and counting) and netted her a new pension fund ($677,000 and counting). The bullies got one-year suspensions and Klein got a much-overdue vacation.

On Monday, the second most famous old ladies on a bus — the “Nuns on the Bus” — arrived in Washington after two weeks, nine states, 31 towns, and 2,700 miles on the road. They’d taken to the highway to decry Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed federal budget — now a cornerstone of the Republican platform — which slashes funding for food stamps, Medicare, and social services. Ryan, a practicing Catholic, has defended his budget as aligned with the teachings of the Church. The sisters, backed by American bishops, have a slightly different reading of the Gospel. “Many politicians offer deeply flawed theological justifications for the federal budget,” said Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice group, and the Whoopi Goldberg-style ringleader of the Nuns on the Bus. “They oughta get some theological help.” She added, “They gut the very programs that help Catholic sisters house the homeless, feed the hungry, and give children a chance.”

It’s been a turbulent few months for American nuns. In April, the Vatican handed down a report excoriating the Leadership Council of Women Religious — a group that represents most of the 57,000 nuns in the United States — for breaking with Church doctrine on social issues (e.g., abortion, contraception, homosexuality) and entertaining “radical feminist themes.” The sisters were gobsmacked. “I’ve given my life to living in this way,” Campbell said. “If you vow poverty, chastity, and obedience, you live open to embracing everybody. If the whole idea of Catholic sisters is to hug the world — and then they say you work too much with the poor? It hurt.”

These are my kinda sistahs!

Sister Diane Donoghue, 81 years old and, by her own estimation, still kicking, took the mic. The bus had stopped by Rep. Eric Cantor’s office yesterday, she said. The crowd hissed. There, the sisters had met a woman with cerebral palsy who depended on federal assistance. The crowd awwed. “I’m not going to stand here and say that the Ryan budget is moral,” Donoghue said. “It’s immoral!” The crowd went bonkers.

Wonderful isn’t it?

So on that note, what are you all doing on our Nation’s Birthday? Have a safe 4th  of July y’all! Stay cool!


Sunday Reads in Darkness and Truth: All for Nothing…All for Everything

Good Morning

Yesterday I spent some time watching movies with my son, first we saw Sergeant York, with Gary Cooper, and after that we saw Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom and Eva Green. It felt good to sit a few hours watching these films, and while we were watching, my son would ask me about things…like historical accuracy…or sometimes he would comment on the actors, and the way the scenes were shot.

The reason I bring all this up is because there is a line in that movie Kingdom of Heaven, when the character of Balian surrenders the city of Jerusalem to Saladin…

What is Jerusalem worth?  Nothing….Everything

I thought that line was fabulous, and while looking for articles to feature in this morning’s post, it seemed like an interesting shadow of a theme.

Not all of today’s articles will relay a message of nothing and everything, but some will.

Former Dictator Hosni Mubarak was sentenced yesterday to life in prison, or as the Judge described… “30 years of darkness.”  After the sentencing, Egyptians protested in the streets. There is an op/ed In the Independent by Robert Fisk that you should take a look at. Robert Fisk: Mubarak will die in jail, but that’s no thanks to us

Twenty-five years is death, isn’t it, if you’re 84 years old? Hosni Mubarak will die in jail. And Habib al-Adli, his interior minister, 74 years old, maybe he will be killed in jail if he doesn’t live out his life sentence. These were the thoughts of two old Egyptian friends of mine yesterday. And Mubarak was sentenced for the dead of the 2011 revolution. That’s 850 dead – 34 people for each year of his term. Quite a thought.

Of course, we were not asking about the death sentences at the military courts in the 1980s and 1990s – and we can’t, can we, when the military is still in power in Egypt. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the field marshal who runs the country, never suggested these courts – and their death sentences – were wrong. Mubarak was fighting “terror”, wasn’t he? On our behalf, I believe. For he was a “moderate”, a friend of the West, and maybe that’s why Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa, got off. Will they leave the country? Will they quit Egypt? No doubt.

So that’s the story. Let’s not mention Bashar al-Assad here. The Egyptian court was meant to be a lesson for him. Kofi Annan was down in Qatar, talking about the Syrian government’s sins yesterday. But, then, there are some problems, aren’t there? Didn’t Mubarak receive a few “renditioned” prisoners from George W Bush; tortured them, too, at Washington’s behest? And didn’t Damascus also torture a few “renditioned” prisoners – the name Arar comes to mind, a Canadian citizen, sent off from JFK for a touch of torture in the Syrian capital? Yes, our “moderate” Arabs were always ready to help us, weren’t they?

Read the rest at the link…and think about the nothing, everything quote.

Meanwhile, in Greece there have been some arrests involving recently elected MPs from the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, who were arrested over a racist attack.

Nikolaos Michaloliakos

Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, led by Nikos Michaloliakos, won 21 seats in last month’s election. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Two newly elected MPs from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party were among six people arrested over an attack on a Pakistani man in Athens, in the latest in a series of incidents that have raised fears that Greece‘s immigrants are being targeted in the runup to this month’s crucial elections.

Ilias Panagiotaros and Ioannis Vouldis were briefly held alongside the daughter of Nikos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn’s leader, but were later released. According to police, the attack took place late on Friday when a group involved in a protest turned on a 31-year-old Pakistani bypasser.

Golden Dawn confirmed two of its MPs had been held, but denied they took part in the attack. “[They] could not have been involved because they were miles away,”it said in a statement.

Golden Dawn caused consternation across Europe after winning 7% of the vote in Greece’s elections in May, giving them 21 seats. It is the first time the far right has sat in parliament since the fall of the military junta in 1974. With their neo-Nazi insignia, violent rhetoric and calls to expel Greece’s immigrants, Golden Dawn’s leaders are hoping to exploit political instability in Greece to gain further ground in elections called for 17 June after no party was able to form a government following last month’s vote.

This group ran disturbing ads prior to the first election,

…with the campaign slogan, “Let’s rid this country of the stench.” On election night Michaloliakos dedicated their success to “all the brave youngsters who wear black T-shirts with Golden Dawn written in white”. Unemployment in Greece now stands at at 22%, and 52% among young people, and the party has sought to capitalise on a mood of fear across a country that is struggling to come to terms with rising crime, falling living standards and a feeling that it is on the brink of economic and political meltdown.

Greece’s 1 million immigrants have become an easy target for neo-Nazi and other far-right groups, who regularly parade through Athens chanting racist slogans.

Connie mentioned this group in the comments a couple months ago when the Greek election results came in. I had no idea they were so “out there” with their hate. I mean, look at that campaign slogan…wait a minute, that sounds like something one of the GOP Border Patrol candidates would say.

Now, I am going to bring it back to the US…and another op/ed. This time from Charles M Blow in the New York Times. Darkness in the Sunshine State

Florida ought to know better. And must do better, particularly on the issue of voting and discrimination.

But, then again, we are talking about Florida, the state of Bush v. Gore infamy and the one that will celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy, with a statewide holiday on Sunday.

What am I getting at? This: Few states in the union have done more in recent years to restrict and suppress voting — particularly by groups who lean Democratic, such as young people, the poor and minorities — than Florida.

Voter interference is very prevalent with the GOP, and it seems that the Dems aren’t speaking up loud enough against the purge going on in the Sunshine State. You are all well aware of the anniversary this past week, when Florida’s Democrat voters were disenfranchised by their own party.

I can’t quote the whole Blow op/ed, so again I will encourage you to read the entire post at the link above.

Some of what Blow touches on in his piece is the type of voter this tactical discrimination is aimed at, poorer minorities.

So, I think this next article about Income Inequality, Racism and Imprisonment sure seems to be a good follow-up to the Blow link. It has both the US rates and foreign country rates, but I will just quote the US ones.

Rates Increased in Unequal States.

The average rate of incarceration in the U.S. is 576 people in prison for every 100,000 people. Just as there are fewer persons per 100,000 in Japan (40 per 100K) who are in prison, there are differences between U.S. States in rates of imprisonment: Louisiana has an incredibly high rate, above 700 people per 100,000. Compare that to Minnesota, below 200 per 100,000. Maybe a difference of five or six times the percentage of people locked up between Louisiana and Minnesota. The chart below shows that these differences are correlated to income inequality differences in each State:

The article describes the way researchers came up with these graphs, but it also brings other things into the discussion.

Racism and Imprisonment.

TheSentencing Project graphs (see the bottom of page 4) show how the rate of incarceration for blacks is 6.70 times the number compared to the rate of incarceration of white people. The New Jim Crow book demonstrates how people of color are being persecuted and exterminated through the misuse and abuse of the U.S. courts and prison systems. The link to the Wikipedia summary is comprehensive and informative.  Stop and Frisk laws routinely sweep communities of color, arresting and imprisoning urban youth from impoverished communities. The war on the poor and people of color in the U.S. make manifest the extreme income inequality and deprivation of the class system in the U.S.. Racism is the penultimate expression of the worst, most oppressive but essential dynamic of income inequality.  The American imprisonment of people of color on a massive, genocidal scale is a direct outcome of a class based, extremely unequal society. In the U.S. a person of color is 6.04 times more likely to be in prison than a white person. In the courts, black youth are more likely to receive a harsher sentence than their white peers.

Again, I suggest going to the link and reading the whole thing. (And are you keeping that quote up top in the back of your mind…)

This next link is very personal…connected to me and my family. As you are all aware, my husband is a survivor of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. I completely disagree with the people below who feel that no mention should be made of the hijackers that flew the airliners into the Twin Towers. They must be made part of the museum, because truth must be told.

It seemed self-evident at the time: A museum devoted to documenting the events of Sept. 11, 2001, would have to include photographs of the hijackers who turned four passenger jets into missiles. Then two and a half years ago, plans to use the pictures were made public.

The museum has not decided whether to include a composite of several tower floors and other materials that were crushed and fused together during the collapse of the World Trade Center.

New York City’s fire chief protested that such a display would “honor” the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. A New York Post editorial called the idea “appalling.” Groups representing rescuers, survivors and victims’ families asked how anyone could even think of showing the faces of the men who killed their relatives, colleagues and friends.

The anger took some museum officials by surprise.

“You don’t create a museum about the Holocaust and not say that it was the Nazis who did it,” said Joseph Daniels, chief executive of the memorial and museum foundation.

This anger surprised me too.

James Estrin/The New York Times

The museum has not decided whether to include a composite of several tower floors and other materials that were crushed and fused together during the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Such are the exquisite sensitivities that surround every detail in the creation of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which  is being built on land that many revere as hallowed ground. During eight years of planning, every step has been muddied with contention. There have been bitter fights over the museum’s financing, which have delayed its opening until at least next year, as well as continuing arguments over its location, seven stories below ground; which relics should be exhibited; and where unidentified human remains should rest.

Even the souvenir key chains to be sold in the gift shop have become a focus of rancor.

But nothing has been more fraught than figuring out how to tell the story.

It is a very long article…like most of the links today, I hope you take the time to read it.

The “Tribute in Light” memorial is in remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001, in honor of the citizens who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. The two towers of light are composed of two banks of high wattage spotlights that point straight up from a lot next to Ground Zero. The ÒTribute in LightÓ memorial was first held in March 2002. This photo was taken from Liberty State Park, New Jersey on September11, 2006, the five year anniversary of 9/11. USAF photo by Denise Gould.

My husband saw first hand the “body parts that littered lower Manhattan.”  He smelled the death and burning for months after the buildings fell. The suit he wore to work that day is covered in dust…remains of those who were killed…remains of friends he saw everyday.

This is not something that should be portrayed with kid gloves. The horror of the attack must be shown for what it was. So many people have put that day out of their minds, and I think it is wrong to sugar coat the facts and hide the truth.

Yes, I get that the Memorial should be a solemn place for remembrance. I am not talking about that…I am talking about the Museum, which is something that needs to be frank in its representation of that day. Everything must be laid out.

The quote up top comes through my mind once again….with the museum that depicts the tragedy of that September day…What is it worth? Nothing…Everything.


Wednesday Reads: Big Blue Marble and Grand Illusions

Good morning!

Let us start this morning’s post with a bit of cheer from Kansas, of course that was a snarky comment. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about the latest news out of Kansas, particularly out of Gov. Brownback’s little sack of horrors. Brownback Signs Law Allowing Expansive Refusal of Medication Based on “Belief” About Abortion

Get this,

by changing the law to include refusal to administer any drug that they believe may terminate a pregnancy, it opens the door to refusal of birth control and emergency contraception — both of which many anti-choice medical workers and pharmacists erroneously charge end very early pregnancies rather than preventing conception. The law could also allow refusal of even more medically-necessary drugs simply because they may relate to abortions.

Idaho already had a case of a pharmacist who refused to fill a perscription for a woman who needed drugs to stop bleeding, believing that the woman may have had an abortion which caused her blood loss, and the pharmacist received no punishment for the action.  How long will it take for that to become the rule, rather than the exception, as the Kansas law goes into effect?

“Assisting in terminating a pregnancy” has already become an overly expansive phrase that many anti-choice activists are applying to even more unrelated situations — from the nurses who refuse to do intake of women in the hospital for a termination to the bus driver who won’t drive a route to Planned Parenthood.

I knew that these religious conscience exemptions were going to bring the crazy ass legislation like this out of the woodwork, but this…this has to be something that should be challenged in court.

Here is another gem for you this morning, Coat Hanger Abortions Are Fine, Says Mississippi Lawmaker, Because ‘Hey, You Have To Have Moral Values’

http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Bubba-Carpenter-e1337089019268.jpg

Mississippi state Rep. Bubba Carpenter (R) said that it’s OK for women to have coat hanger abortions because it’s for a greater good.

A video obtained by Rachel Maddow’s blog captures Carpenter saying he is proud of Mississippi’s attempts to outlaw abortion outright, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled abortions legal in the United States.

And what about women who will perform self-induced abortions because they cannot afford to go out of state to get the procedure? “Hey,” he says, “you have to have moral values”:

Here is what Buuuuubba had to say,

It’s going to be challenged, of course, in the Supreme Court and all — but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi, legally, without having to– Roe vs. Wade. So we’ve done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into law. And of course, there you have the other side. They’re like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger. That’s what we’ve learned over and over and over.’

But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we’ve decided to do. This became law and the governor signed it, and I think for one time, we were first in the nation in the state of Mississippi

Video at this link if you feel the need to watch a dumbass at work.

There was an interesting story at Fox Nation this week, this headline was caught by one of the readers at Maddow Blog:  Water. Rest. Shade.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration launched an effort to prevent heat illnesses among outdoor workers, and at face value, this wouldn’t be especially noteworthy. On the contrary, this is a basic part of OSHA’s mission, in this case, the agency recommends, “Water. Rest. Shade. The work can’t get done without them.”

So why am I mentioning this? Because, as Steve M. noticed, Fox News’ website put its own unique spin on what seems like a fairly mundane story.

[...]

Fox Nation has an amazing track record of putting silly spins on routine news stories, but going after the administration over heat strokes is breaking new ground.

I’m not sure whether to be annoyed by Fox’s ridiculous standards or impressed with its creativity.

Yeah, that sure is a hell of a way to spin a story.

This next link is via The Grio, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Baltimore’s oldest black cemetery, finally restored with help of inmates

After decades of neglect, interrupted occasionally by well-meaning but ultimately fruitless cleanup efforts, the cemetery in South Baltimore was officially rededicated Monday, due in large part to the labors of an unlikely group: state prison inmates.

As part of a program to put those serving time to work on meaningful projects, more than 40 prisoners have worked on the four-year effort to transform the cemetery’s 34 acres.

“There’s 55,000 graves here,” said Gary Maynard, the secretary for the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, looking out over Mount Auburn’s bright green fields. “That’s 55,000 families. There are a lot of people connected to this cemetery, and now they’re out here looking for graves of family they couldn’t find in the past.”

Maynard calls these programs “restorative justice,” where prisoners work on projects that help the community in a better way than just picking up garbage on the side of the road.

Founded in 1872, when blacks could not be interred next to whites, Mount Auburn was known as “The City of the Dead for Colored People.” The cemetery, which overlooks the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, became the final resting place for many pioneers of Baltimore’s black community.

They include Lillie May Carroll Jackson, who led the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP for 35 years; Carl J. Murphy, a leading voice of the civil rights movement, and his father, John Henry Murphy, the founder of the Afro-American newspaper; and Joseph Gans, the first lightweight boxing champion.

It seems like a good time to bring up a post Dakinikat wrote yesterday about the prison system in her neck of the woods. At least these prisoners are working on something worthwhile. Right?

Corrections officials hope such skills and the experience working on a team will help inmates prepare for a return to society. Those who have participated in such projects have a reduced rate of recidivism.

Not just any inmate can participate in the program, Maynard said. To be eligible, prisoners must have committed less-serious crimes, be nearing release, and earn their way into the program. They earn “a dollar or two” a day for their labor, officials said.

Learning about the historical significance of the sites is built into much of the work.

Maynard said the inmates who worked around Antietam “probably didn’t know the history of the Civil War.”

“They didn’t know what sacrifice was made, for both sides, for saving the Union and state’s rights,” he said. “So all of a sudden, they’re a part of history. That’s going to help them change their mentality and what they’re worth as a person.”

Hmmm, I don’t know what to make of the comment about the Civil War, sounds a bit strange in context with the sentence “they earn a dollar or two a day” doesn’t it? I mean, seems like something was left out…like…Emancipation?  Well, lets move on…

This is very cool: This 121-Megapixel Photo of Earth Will Make Your Jaw Drop

earthNeed something to put things into perspective on a Monday morning? Our suggestion: The largest single-shot photo of Earth ever taken.

Eclipsing NASA’s updated “Blue Marble” shot, which is a composite of many satellite images, this image is a single-shot taken from 22,369 miles away by Russian weather satellite Elektro-L No.1.

The colors on the 121-megapixel photo are quite different from the ones on NASA’s photos of Earth. To capture the image, the satellite combines visible and infrared wavelengths of light. Infrared light is used to see plants, which is why the parts of the Earth that would normally be green are seen as rusty brown.

For a time-lapse video of the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, click the link above.

I’ve got one more link for you, this is also about prisoners…of war…World War I that is. Renoir’s Vision for a United Europe in ‘Grand Illusion’ It is the 75th Anniversary of this masterpiece directed by Jean Renoir.

Rialto Pictures

Jean Renoir directed the classic “Grand Illusion” (1937) starring Pierre Fresnay, left, and Erich Von Stroheim.

“GRAND ILLUSION” had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 1937, and it has been around ever since, by enduring consensus one of the greatest films ever made. It is true that Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief and cultural arbiter, was not a fan, but Mussolini, patron of the festival and Europe’s leading fascist cinephile, kept a print in his personal collection. Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that “all the democracies in the world must see this film,” which is still sound advice. The nations that fall within that rubric may have grown in number since those days, but none of those democracies, old or new, is so secure as to be immune to the lessons of Jean Renoir’s great and piercing antiwar comedy.

Which is not to say that “Grand Illusion” is didactic, though it is, like much of the art of its era, unapologetic about its social concerns and political implications. It survives partly as a document of those volatile times, and of the idealism that persisted through them even as history prepared a new, unimaginable round of horrors. Seventy-five years on, Europe is far from a state of war, but in light of its current crisis — which is not only economic and political, but also, once again, a crisis of identity — Renoir’s film is still news.

In France the late 1930s were the years of the Popular Front, an attempt by the left to counter the rise of fascism and overcome its own tendencies toward sectarianism and orthodoxy. The political face of the front was Léon Blum, a moderate Jewish Socialist whose two truncated, frustrating terms as prime minister coincided with the production and release of Renoir’s film. It is hardly incidental that the friendship at the heart of “Grand Illusion” — the alliance that carries the germ of its political hope — is between Lieutenant Maréchal, a proudly working-class Parisian played by Jean Gabin, and Rosenthal, an assimilated, wealthy French Jew played by Marcel Dalio. The action takes place during World War I (in which Renoir had served as a pilot), when the Dreyfus Affair was still a recent memory, but it has an eye on contemporary anti-Semitism and labor militancy as well as a subtle, anxious premonition of global conflicts to come.

The film has been restored, and is being shown on screens across the US:

The new, digitally restored 35-millimeter print (made from a newly unearthed camera negative) playing at Film Forum in Manhattan through May 24 is not a revelation or a rediscovery. It is, instead, a sparkling reminder of how a movie absorbed in its own historical moment and preoccupied with the legacies of the past can resonate into a future that lies beyond its specific range of imagination (while looking at least as luminous as it did when Mussolini first laid eyes on it).

Please read the rest of the NYT article, it describes the film’s sensitivity to the human characters on the screen. It is a wonderful film. If you live in one of the cities on the list below, be sure to see it on the big screen.

:: Grand Illusion ::

::    May 11 – 24    NEW YORK,  NY    Film Forum
::    May 18 – 31    LOS ANGELES,  CA    Laemmle’s Royal Theatre
::    May 18 – 31    PASADENA,  CA    Laemmle’s Playhouse 7
::    June 1 – 3    SAN FRANCISCO,  CA    Castro Theatre
::    June 8 – 14    DALLAS,  TX    Angelika Film Center
::    June 16 – 17    AUSTIN,  TX    Paramount Theatre
::    June 29 – July 5    CHICAGO,  IL    Gene Siskel Film Center
::    July 6 – 12    PORTLAND,  OR    Cinema 21
::    July 13 – 19    SEATTLE,  WA    Northwest Film Forum
::    July 27    ST. LOUIS,  MO    Cinema St. Louis

That is all I have for you this morning, enjoy your day and share what you are reading about today…


Sunday Reads: Pardons and Prozac

Good Sunday Morning

I hope your weekend has been a happy one.

Today is one of those days that makes me want to relax. I really don’t want to read anything that will get me depressed, or angry. My guess is there are many readers who feel the same way I do.

So….this morning I have some interesting links for you, think of it as a taking a break.

First, I would like to send a message to one of our readers, she calls herself a lurker…but she is way more than that. ;)

Picture by Green Renaissance, click photo for link.

HT, I saw this photo on Kathy’s, aka Delphyne, Facebook page and immediately thought of you. Your personal strength far outshines the massive force of nature this image represents. Woman, you are amazing and I am very lucky to know you.

Actually, there are so many strong women (and men) who are part of the Sky Dancing family, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this blogging community.

Alright! Now for your morning reads, it seems that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has granted a pardon to a man who was scheduled for execution this month. Remember as you read the next couple of articles, this is the same board that refused to grant a pardon or commute the death sentence for Troy Davis.

Pardons board grants clemency to condemned Ga. man

The Georgia pardons board made the rare decision on Friday to spare the life of a condemned man who was set to die this week for the 1991 murder of his ex-classmate.

The move by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to reduce Daniel Greene’s death sentence to life in prison without parole came days after the board stayed his execution. Greene was initially set to die on Thursday for the murder of 20-year-old Bernard Walker, who was fatally stabbed as he tried to help a store clerk attacked by Greene.

This is the fourth time the board has commuted a sentence of death since 2002. What could be the reason for this pardon?

…it came after an outpouring of support for the Taylor County man by community members, a change of heart by the prosecutor who tried the case against him and a powerful plea for mercy from the condemned man himself.

“I think Daniel’s remorse is very apparent. He’s led an exemplary life before and since these incidents,” said his defense attorney, Jeff Ertel. “It was an aberrant act surrounded by 20 years on each side of an outstanding life.”

Let me say I am against the death penalty. (Personally, living a life out in a small prison cell without a chance for parole is punishment enough.) So anytime a death sentence is commuted, there is only one response…this is a good thing.

My only thought is why could they not do this for Troy Davis? (Click this link to some of our previous posts on the topic of Troy Davis: troy davis —SkyDancingBlog.com  

Anyway, here is more background for you:

Greene, 42, has been on death row for almost 20 years. His crime spree began on Sept. 27, 1991, when he robbed clerk Virginia Wise at her Taylor County convenience store and then stabbed her through the lung. She survived the attack.

Moments later, Walker entered the store and tried to help Wise. Greene stabbed his former classmate through the heart before fleeing, leaving Walker to die in the store’s parking lot. Greene then went on to attack an elderly couple in nearby Macon County and another store clerk in Warner Robins before he was arrested.

A standout defensive lineman in high school, Greene had to be tried in Clayton County because of all the media coverage in his hometown. He was convicted in December 1992 of murder, robbery and assault and was sentenced to death.

This “crime spree” was attributed by Greene supporters as a…

“…drug-crazed transgression.”

Former Taylor County Sheriff Nick Giles called him a “beloved son” of the community, and a former corrections officer who knew Greene in prison said he was “as fine a man as I have ever met in my life.”

Greene also sent in a letter to the board expressing his remorse for the pain and suffering he caused Walker’s family.

“I was on drugs at the time, but I took the drugs with my hands, and I take the responsibility. That choice to do drugs and what I did after were the worst mistakes of my life,” he said in the letter. “I do not blame the drugs. I blame myself for everything.”

Again, I am happy his sentence was commuted…but there is a bit of something in the pit of my stomach…this board pardoned a man who admitted his crime, and is remorseful, yet they approve killing a man who protested his innocence and who was convicted of the crime by eyewitness testimony from a witness who may have been the actual murderer.

From another article, Georgia pardons board spares condemned killer Daniel Greene:

Greene

“We want to thank the board so much for their courage in this case,” one of Greene’s elated attorneys, Lindsay N. Bennett, said in a phone interview from Atlanta.

Greene, who had spent two decades on Georgia’s death row and already ordered his last meal, received the news Friday and appeared to be in shock, Bennett said.

There have been many reactions to the board’s decision.

Bob Bacle, the former Reynolds police chief who addressed the paroles board on behalf of the victims and planned to attend the execution, condemned the decision, saying justice had been subverted.

“What good was it to have a trial 21 years ago and then 21 years later five folks on the board of pardons can second-guess a jury?” Bacle said. “That’s what we’ve got a system of justice for. What does this tell criminals out there coming along now?”

Former Taylor County Sheriff Nick Giles offered a more neutral reaction.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Giles, who had advocated capital punishment in the case when Greene was arrested. “The parole board, they know more about what the past 21 years has been like than I do.”

Bacle obviously does not hold the same opinion as many who read this blog…and we heard lots of similar arguments when Troy Davis was hours from death.

Mark Shelnutt, a Columbus attorney who helped prosecute Greene, told the paroles board on Tuesday that a key factor in seeking capital punishment against Greene had been that life without parole was not an option for Georgia juries at the time.

“Obviously, life without parole is no slap on the hand,” Shelnutt said. “He’s never going to get out of jail.”

So, the board made the right decision this time. Good. I am glad. But why could they not make the right decision with Troy Davis? We cannot forget him…or forget the fact that a man was sent to death strictly on the basis of witness testimony, and without physical evidence that he was involved in the crime. No, let us not forget.

Sigh…

Moving on, there have been some recent studies regarding breast cancer that I feel is worth writing about. First we have an article that discusses how scientist have genetically mapped the disease which can lead to more accurate diagnoses and treatment. Breast cancer treatment gets boost

The treatment of breast cancer could be revolutionised with patients offered more accurate diagnoses and better-targeted treatments after a study in which scientists genetically mapped the disease.

The research found that rather than being a single disease, breast cancer can be classified into 10 distinct types. It also identified several new genes that determine the aggressiveness of the cancer.

The breakthrough had been hailed by charities as a step towards the “holy grail” of tailoring treatments to the needs of individual patients.

The findings of the research, in which scientists examined 2,000 tumours in the largest ever genetic study of breast cancer tissue, could help predict patients’ chances of survival more accurately and lead to the development of more effective drugs for each cancer type.

Exciting huh?

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “This is a landmark study that really changes the way we think about breast cancer – no longer as one disease but actually as 10 quite distinct diseases, dependent on which genes are switched on and which ones aren’t for an individual woman.
“What this research will help us to do is make a much more accurate, much more precise, diagnosis for every patient with breast cancer in the future.

“That will enable us to make sure that we really target the right treatment to the right woman based on those who are going to benefit, or if they’re not going to benefit, not exposing them to the side-effects associated with those treatments.
“That will enable us to make much more progress in breast cancer in coming years.”

Another link from Guardian describes the possibilities of new drugs for the fight against breast cancer.  Breast cancer study could lead to new generation of drugs for the disease | Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK  This article is written by Dr. Kumar, which was quoted above. He begins his essay with the advances we have seen in Breast Cancer survival rates and treatments.

Scientific research has been at the heart of this progress, and much of this improved survival is due to drugs that have emerged from laboratories worldwide. Hormone drugs like tamoxifen, and targeted treatments like trastuzumab (better known as Herceptin), have saved thousands of lives.

At Cancer Research UK we’re proud to have supported the clinical work that refined tamoxifen use, and the laboratory work in the 1980s that ultimately led to the development of Herceptin.

However, these drugs don’t work for some women: their tumours lack the molecules that make them susceptible. And others, whose tumours look like they should respond, don’t – and we don’t know why.

Clearly, our classification of breast cancers as hormone-positive or negative, and Her2-positive or negative, is far too simplistic.

Which brings us to today’s landmark announcement. Our researchers, working with colleagues in Canada, have completely redefined breast cancer into 10 entirely new categories. To achieve this, the METABRIC team, led jointly by Prof Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and Prof Sam Aparicio from the British Columbia Cancer Centre in Canada, analysed tumours from nearly 2,000 women.

What makes METABRIC such a game changer is that they analysed so many different aspects of the tumours – gene mutations, gene amplifications, gene activity and more – and linked this information to the women’s treatment history, and their clinical fates. This is the first study of this level of detail and scale in the world.

And these results have significant meaning in the fight against breast cancer.

First, they confirm that our existing “breast cancer map” is outdated – there should be 10 “countries”, not four “continents” – and this is now territory we need to urgently explore. For example, one of the newly discovered types consisted of women with apparently aggressive cancers who actually did very well. Closer inspection showed that these women were rescued by their own immune systems. We urgently need to know how.

Second, the study identified a slew of new cancer genes, which will make excellent targets for a new generation of Herceptin-like drugs. We hope that, one day, drugs will exist for all these subgroups, so no woman will ever have to be told she has the “wrong” type of breast cancer.

And finally, the results suggest that some women have such a good prognosis that they could potentially be spared chemotherapy after their surgery.

Kumar continues to stress the need for more research, and the time involved in developing new treatments. But the over all feel is a positive one, in that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to breast cancer research.

I’ve got one more link for you about another study involving breast cancer. This time from my alma mater University of South Florida: Cancer therapies affect cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues at the University of South Florida and University of Kentucky have found that breast cancer survivors who have had chemotherapy, radiation or both do not perform as well on some cognitive tests as women who have not had cancer.

They published their study in the April 1 issue of Cancer.

“Survivors of breast cancer are living longer, so there is a need to better understand the long-term effects of cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation,” said study lead author Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., associate center director for Population Sciences.

To carry out their study, the researchers recruited 313 women being treated by either chemotherapy or radiotherapy for early stage breast cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. Those who had undergone treatment for cancer were tested six months after treatment and then tested again 36 months after having completed treatment.

They also recruited a control group of women who did not have cancer. These participants were also tested at six months and 36 months.

Participants in all groups were within five years of age, and breast cancer patients were matched with non-cancer patients who lived in their same ZIP codes. Participants were tested cognitively with respect to processing speed (quick task completion under pressure), executive functioning (ability to shift cognitive sets and solve novel problems), the two domains expected to be most affected by chemotherapy. They were also tested with regard to verbal abilities.

“Our findings were partially consistent with prior research,” explained Jacobsen. “We found that chemotherapy-treated patients performed worse than non-cancer controls in processing speed, executive functioning and verbal ability. These domains may be the domains most affected by chemotherapy.”

Just a side note, Moffitt is an excellent research facility. My father was part of a study there when he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 1991, at the age of 44.  Anyway, back to the study:

The also found test results for the radiotherapy group to be similar to the results of those in the chemotherapy group. Additionally, they discovered that the non-cancer group improved in these cognitive abilities over time while the chemotherapy and radiotherapy groups did not. There were no differences in performance between the radiotherapy and chemotherapy groups, noted the researchers.

The researchers commented that they were fortunate for having included the radiotherapy groups because their results were so similar to the chemotherapy group. Had that group not been included, conclusions could have been drawn to suggest that the cognitive differences between the non-cancer group and the chemotherapy group were specific to chemotherapy.

“Since patients report cognitive problems that interfere with their daily activities, early workups should include tests to determine cognitive functioning prior to treatment,” concluded Jacobsen. “Future research also needs to investigate factors that may affect both chemotherapy patients and those receiving radiotherapy. Providers may wish to communicate that such effects can accompany chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

Just a few more links for you this morning, and since this is becoming a rather long post we will make them quick ones.

I am going to stick with the health issues theme for a little longer. Two articles for you from the New York Times.

The Science and History of Treating Depression -

Few medicines, in the history of pharmaceuticals, have been greeted with as much exultation as a green-and-white pill containing 20 milligrams of fluoxetine hydrochloride — the chemical we know as Prozac. In her 1994 book “Prozac Nation,” Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote of a nearly transcendental experience on the drug. Before she began treatment with antidepressants, she was living in “a computer program of total negativity . . . an absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest.” She floated from one “suicidal reverie” to the next. Yet, just a few weeks after starting Prozac, her life was transformed. “One morning I woke up and really did want to live. . . . It was as if the miasma of depression had lifted off me, in the same way that the fog in San Francisco rises as the day wears on. Was it the Prozac? No doubt.”

Like Wurtzel, millions of Americans embraced antidepressants. In 1988, a year after the Food and Drug Administration approved Prozac, 2,469,000 prescriptions for it were dispensed in America. By 2002, that number had risen to 33,320,000. By 2008, antidepressants were the third-most-common prescription drug taken in America.

Fast forward to 2012 and the same antidepressants that inspired such enthusiasm have become the new villains of modern psychopharmacology — overhyped, overprescribed chemicals, symptomatic of a pill-happy culture searching for quick fixes for complex mental problems.

Take a look at the rest of this interesting article by clicking that link above.

Here is another link about mind altering drugs, this time the discussion focuses on How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death and how a study being performed by:

…Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death. Twenty-two months before she died, Sakuda became one of Grob’s 12 subjects. When the research was completed in 2008 — (and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year) — the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. And there are two ongoing studies using psilocybin with terminal patients, one at New York University’s medical school, led by Stephen Ross, and another at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Roland Griffiths has administered psilocybin to 22 cancer patients and is aiming for a sample size of 44. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Again, I urge you to read the entire piece.

This next link is from Time magazine…VA to Add 1,900 to Mental-Health Staff that is good news, however bittersweet…good news for soldiers returning from war, they will get the care they so desperately need…but with a touch of sadness that there experiences could have been avoided in the first place.

And now, we get to enjoy a couple of items from…

Minx’s Missing Link File: Okay, these are a bit on the “old” side, I had bookmarked the following articles before my surgery. However, they are still damn good. Just a tease from each…you can click the links to read further.

From Their Graves, Ancient Nomads Speak an article from the New York Times:

Z. Samashev/A. Kh. Margulan Institute of Archaeology, Almaty

PRESERVED Some of the most illuminating discoveries dispelling notions that nomadic societies were less developed than many sedentary ones are now coming from burial mounds, called kurgans, in the Altai Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan, near the borders with Russia and China.

Ancient Greeks had a word for the people who lived on the wild, arid Eurasian steppes stretching from the Black Sea to the border of China. They were nomads, which meant “roaming about for pasture.” They were wanderers and, not infrequently, fierce mounted warriors. Essentially, they were “the other” to the agricultural and increasingly urban civilizations that emerged in the first millennium B.C.

British postwar design: Immaculate conceptions –  an article from The Independent:

 How much has British design changed since 1948? The poster for the so-called Austerity Olympics in London that year showed a statuesquely naked athlete, coiled and about to release his discus towards Parliament. In 2012, the Olympic logo is designed to allow sponsors’ corporate colours to be used in the symbol. How did we get from a broadly civic, welfare-minded postwar design culture to 21st century design industries whose essential purpose is to make as much money as possible?

It’s a complicated story and the V&A’s new blockbuster show, British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, is timely and ambitious. Its 300-plus exhibits sample the genetic material of design through this 64-year period, and Christopher Breward and Ghislaine Wood have curated a series of overlapping windows on tradition, modernity, subversion and latter-day innovation.

And finally…

Your Easy like Sunday Morning link of the week: This too is from a couple of weeks ago. The artist Tashi Mannox, who has graciously allowed us to use his painting of Clouds as our blog’s banner, is also well-known for his calligraphy. Specifically the kind of art that expresses itself as tattoos. I recently commissioned a tattoo design from Tashi, and as I await the fun that is involved in the design process, I wanted to share with you a link to Tashi’s blog. He recently traveled to the Middle East to participate in an exhibition of Calligraphy artist.

RELATED TIBETAN SCRIPTS: Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial

Every two years the government of Sharjah holds a prestigious event called the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial. For the second term running Tashi Mannox has been invited to exhibit his contemporary Tibetan calligraphy along-side not only Islamic calligraphy works from across Arab world but from other international destinations.
This year Tashi attended the opening celebrations where he met with eminent Sheikhs and other participants from Japan, Morocco, Norway and the USA.
More than a 100 works by 160 artists is showcased during the month of April 2012 at the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial that is located at the Calligraphy Square Museum and the Sharjah Art Gallery.

There are some cool pictures at the link, and Tashi has some wonderful observations he has written about as well…so please head on over and check it out.

Well, that is one hefty post for you…I am sure you can add more interesting links to articles you are reading about today….so, enjoy your Sunday morning and I will catch you later in the comments below!