Sunday Reads: Potpourri

194Good Morning

Today’s post is bringing you a mixture of different links, a potpourri if you will…

But before we get to the bowl of fragrant, colorful, natural, synthetic, faded, smelly, moldy, dried, limp, withered reads, let us touch on something that I find hilariously ironic.

Look at this headline:

5 People Shot At 3 Different Gun Shows On Gun Appreciation Day

I don’t think there is anything else to say about that. Except maybe add this nugget of news from TPM:

Yep, Big Liars

It seems that the Obama kids are not protected by armed guards at the Sidwell Friends School.

I would not go so far as to say that the NRA are big liars, cough, but you decide.

Another headline for you:

Obama’s Plan May Put More Guns in Schools

Personally, I think that there should be mandatory full-time armed police person inside schools…and that they should be paid from a tax on ammunition. But I feel strongly, and passionately, that these armed individuals should not be volunteers, teachers, janitors and/or any vigilante obsessed gun-toting “concerned” citizens.

Okay then, moving right along, the links today are going to be in link dump fashion, since my head is killing me and this computer screen is burning my eyes.

The first couple of links I have for you are chilling and extremely disturbing. Be sure to read them in full.

Is PTSD Contagious? It’s rampant among returning vets—and now their spouses and kids are starting to show the same symptoms. Mac McClelland | Mother Jones

After reading Mac’s article, I think it is fair to say…yes, PTSD is contagious.

Coupled with these infographics that tell a sad story: Charts: Suicide, PTSD and the Psychological Toll on America’s Vets | Mother Jones

Another post that is related to traumatic experiences: Can Eye Movements Treat Trauma?: Scientific American

Studies are showing that moving your eyes back and forth like a ping-pong ball can help deal with PTSD. The technique is called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

This next article discusses Afghanistan: The 13-Year War- As we draw closer to the withdrawal in Afghanistan promised at the close of 2014, a look back at America’s longest war.

Emptywheel takes a look at the connection between Adam Swartz and the government’s investigation into Wikileaks. The Fishing Expedition into WikiLeaks

Here is an update on the ongoing hunt for pythons in Florida’s Everglades: Florida’s python update: 21 caught so far in Everglades hunt

And another update on the story we’ve followed about those possible Spitfires in Burma: No ‘lost Spitfires’ buried in Burma-Dig near Rangoon International Airport proves fruitless but Lincolnshire farmer insists search will continue elsewhere in the country

Want to see a list of Representatives who did not vote for Sandy aid? MAP: In These 22 States, Every House Republican Voted Against Sandy Aid

Take a look at this photo, it is still a messy situation.

Almost three months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, the GOP-controlled House approved a bill that provides $50.7 billion in disaster relief for the storm’s victims. While passage of the bill is being hailed as a bipartisan success by some (the vote was 241-180), a closer look at how the parties voted by state lines indicates otherwise. GOPers overwhelmingly voted against funding—unless, of course, their state was hard hit.

In 22 states, every last Republican representative voted against HR 152 or abstained on the bill, which includes $17 billion for immediate repair and an amendment introduced by a Republican, New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, that tacks on another $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and prevention. These included Maryland and the Carolinas (remember Hugo and Floyd?), states that are vulnerable to seasonal hurricanes but were largely spared by Sandy.

And…in the plastic yuk department: Plastics Suck Up Other Toxins: Double Whammy for Marine Life, Gross for Seafood

Combine that with the yuk from Coke’s sugary drinks: Coke: Wait, People Thought Vitaminwater Was Good for You?

Makes you think, what the hell are we doing to ourselves?

If it doesn’t make you question our self-destructive actions, this next link will…Labiaplasty: An investigation of the most popular trend in the field of ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ surgery.

Kirsten O’Regan: Labiaplasty, Part I – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Kirsten O’Regan: Labiaplasty, Part II – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

You may need some eye bleach and a break from reading after that article. Ooof!

Why would any woman do that to herself? I mean, that is just fucked-up.

Couldn’t they just “think” about it and get the same benefit, if you could call it that. Check this out: AsapSCIENCE Demonstrates The Power Of Imagination- Thinking About Doing Something Is Pretty Much The Same As Doing It [Video] | Geekosystem

Ready for a strange and uncomfortable fact to start your Friday morning? Sure you are, and here it is, courtesy of the fine cartoonists and deep thinkers over at AsapSCIENCE: when you think deeply about a thing — seeing the letter ‘B,’ for example, or fixing a sandwich — the same parts of your brain involved in performing that action light up. Some studies even suggest that you can improve your piano skills just by thinking diligently about playing while not actually touching a piano. Check out AsapSCIENCE’s latest video below and learn more about how your brain is just weird sometimes.

Well, I guess all of us procrastinators will appreciate that video. (I won’t even begin to try and fix the f’d up grammar in that sentence.)

I’ve got another video for you:   The deer that thinks it’s a sheep | Earth | EarthSky

Photo courtesy the National Trust, UK

You will love this video. The deer attached himself to the sheep in early December 2012. He shows no sign of leaving.

Have you all seen this bit of twisted news in the world of ballet?

Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin ‘blinded’ by acid attack that left him with chemical burns- The former ballet star had acid thrown in his face by a man – it is thought the attack is linked to his position

Bolshoi ballet director Sergei Filin severely injured in acid attack -Doctors fighting to save eyesight of former dancer after assailant threw acid in his face outside central Moscow home

Wow, this post is getting long, and I am very late in getting it posted. Quickly…here are the rest of the links I have saved to share with you today.

Today it is the 100th birthday of Danny Kaye. From MovieMorlocks.com – Happy 100th, Danny!

Also from Movie Morlocks, some wonderful photography:  William Edward Cronenweth: A Legacy in Photos

More science links:

Scientists shed light on the ‘dark matter’ of DNA

Innovative approach results in improved writing skills at primary school

And finally, a travel piece: Swept away by a Sicilian symphony

Have a great day…and enjoy those links!


Sunday Reads: Cold Temps, Cold Tea and Warm Bed

Good Morning!

It is cold in Banjoville, we are talking low 20′s, and living near the river makes the air feel damp and harsh.  I’ve avoided the news this weekend, there is something going around…like when you have a hunch that you are coming down with a cold…but instead of dreading it, you are actually welcoming it. Why? Because it gives you a reason to sleep all day and not have to explain your crappy attitude to your family and friends.

Actually, the yesterday started very well and exciting, but when I opened the fridge and was hit with the leftover turkey fumes, it just drained all the energy out of me.

Anyway, here are some links to get you started this morning. You got your cup of Joe? Mug of tea? (My tea is already cold.) Flask of Southern Comfort? (Some may prefer whiskey or vodka, but I love me some SoCo.)

Juan Cole had an interesting post this past week, If You are 27 or younger, you’ve never lived through a colder than average month (Bump)

Paul Bump at Grist points out that The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on global temperatures in October 2012 as follows:

“The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.”

He then did a quick calculation, and concluded that if you were born after April, 1985, i.e. if you are 27 or younger, you have never experienced a month with a global average temperature colder than the 20th-century average. (Obviously, you may have experienced a month at lower than local averages, though that would be rare, too; the point is about world averages.)

Cole links to a video from NASA:

One thing that is not cold, is the tension in Egypt. I have a few updates that you may not have read about yet:

Egypt braces for more protests

If Sunday is anything like the last several days in Egypt, it will not be quiet.

Egypt’s ElBaradei Calls on President to Rescind Near Absolute Powers

Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei has called on Egypt’s president to rescind the near absolute powers he has granted himself.

ElBaradei says President Mohamed Morsi must take the action to avoid the possibility of increased turmoil in the country that has recently shed its longtime repressive government.

Nobel laureate ElBaradei addressed crowds that gathered Saturday in Cairo’s central square to protest President Morsi’s decrees that put him above judicial oversight and protect his Islamist supporters in parliament.

Egypt’s highest body of judges, the Supreme Judicial Council, also condemned President Morsi’s decree. The judges Saturday called the move “an unprecedented attack” on the independence of the judiciary. Judges in Alexandria have gone on strike, saying they will not return to work until the decree is withdrawn.

Egypt rights groups and ElBaradei denounce Mursi decree

Anti-Mursi protesters chant slogans in front of the Supreme Judicial Council building in Cairo, 24 November 2012
Critics and supporters of Mr Mursi have staged rallies since the decree was announced

More than 20 Egyptian rights groups have called on President Mohammed Mursi to withdraw the decree granting himself extensive new powers.

The 22 groups signed an open letter saying the president “has dealt a lethal blow to the Egyptian judiciary”.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Middle East:

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Middle East crisis social media

Middle East crisis social media © Peter Broelman,Australia,Middle East,Israel,Hamas,Palestine,Palestinians,war,Gaza, gaza fighting

Here is an op/ed from Robert Fisk: Netanyahu leads Israel into isolation Go ahead and give that a read.

I’ve got more news that involves two sides fighting…this time in Japan, between the right-wing Nationalist and the environmentalist: Dueling protests in Tokyo over dolphin and whale hunts

Environmentalists and nationalists held opposing rallies over the issue of Japan’s dolphin and whale hunts in a rare showdown in central Tokyo on Saturday, leading to angry scenes.

About 50 anti-whaling activists gathered at a park in the Shibuya shopping district with banners bearing slogans such as “Stop the cruel dolphin hunt!” while across the street about 30 nationalists shouted “Get out of Japan!”

The nationalists accused the environmentalists of undermining Japanese culture and traditions, saying “environmental terrorists” should be sent to slaughter houses.

I can only think of that episode of South Park…Whale Whores:

Stan and his family are spending his birthday at the Denver Aquarium where they will get to swim with the dolphins. Things turn bloody when the Japanese attack, kill all the dolphins and ruin Stan’s big day. There seems to be no end to the senseless killing. Stan takes on the cause to save the dolphins from the Japanese.

Down in Cuba, there is quite a stir about a recently elected official: Cuban transsexual elected to public office

Adela Hernandez

Adela Hernandez hailed election triumph as another milestone in gradual shift away from macho attitudes in Caribbean country. Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP

A Cuban transsexual has become the first known transgender person to hold public office in the country, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.

Adela Hernandez, 48, hailed her election in a country where gays were persecuted for decades and sent to rural work camps as another milestone in the gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.

Hernandez, who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for “dangerousness” after her own family denounced her sexuality.

“As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are the minority,” Hernandez said by phone from her home town. Becoming a delegate “is a great triumph”, she added.

This is a big deal in Cuba:

For years after the 1959 Cuban revolution, authorities hounded people of differing sexual orientation and others considered threatening, such as priests, long-haired youths and rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts. But there have been notable changes in attitudes toward sexuality.

“I would like to think that discrimination against homosexuals is a problem that is being overcome,” Castro told an interviewer some years ago.

Read the rest of Hernandez story at the link.

I’ve got another transgender, I guess it is more of a cross-dressing story for you. This one is about The 72-year-old Chinese grandfather who models teen-girl clothes I will just post a picture…you can click to see the rest.

18 November 2012 01:09 PM

offbeatchina.com

…and, what is more, looks pretty good doing it. Kate Moss, eat your heart out, the world’s newest superpower has a new supermodel to match. But Liu Xianping is not your average clothes horse.

Why does that image remind me of Andy Warhol?

More newsy articles after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


A War of a Different Sort

In the May edition of Vanity Fair, Joseph Stiglitz [economist and professor at Columbia University and recipient of the Nobel prize in economic sciences, 2001] wrote a prescient essay entitled, “Of the 1%, For the 1% and By the 1%.”

In a strange way, the piece voiced what would months later become the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, a foreshadowing of the public’s growing discontent with high unemployment, rising poverty and income disparity as well as the social damage resulting from Government failure to address the problems: the distortion it creates, how income disparities breed a climate of imbalance and lack of restraint, encouraging:

. . . no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining.

In addition, Stiglitz underscored how inequality erodes our national identity–the sense of fairness, equal opportunity, our sense of community–the very elements we consider American staples.  In fact, while listening to the GOPs’ endless political debates these past months, I’ve felt like a stranger in a strange land.  Abandon child labor laws?  Let the uninsured die?  Begin massive deportations?

Really?

In any case, Stiglitz was the first to sound the warning in clear, concise and effective prose.

Which is why I found Stiglitz’s recent VF piece, ‘The Book of Jobs,’ required reading.  Great title, btw.  Even better is the comparison made between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the present downturn.  Or as Stiglitz refers to our current dilemma: the Great Slump.  An interesting aside, Paul Krugman pulled out all the stops over the weekend and called our economic crisis a depression, period.  Hardly a surprise for the underwater homeowner, the long-term unemployed or those juggling multiple part-time positions to make ends meet.

I’d encourage readers to take a few minutes and read Stiglitz’s recent essay. It’s amazingly concise and clear, even for non-economic types [like myself]. But here’s the gist: Ben Bernanke, a self-proclaimed scholar of the Great Depression, turned on the money spigots in response to the 2008-2009 meltdown because traditional wisdom said the Great Depression was the result of excessive money tightening by the Federal Reserve. So, doing the opposite would be the charm, right?

Not quite.  As Stiglitz notes, this time we have proof that monetary manipulations were neither the cause nor the answer.

Why?

Because despite the flood of money, we’re still in the crapper.  Consider this an Advanced Economics Lab experiment, playing out before your eyes.

So what is the root problem?

The economy itself, Stiglitz contends, a structural dislocation, a weak economy disguised by whopping bubbles in the real estate and financial markets, the easy, even crazy availability of credit, but basically a shift in the jobs we have to the jobs we need.

This is eerily similar to the precursor of the Great Depression.  Then, massive unemployment resulted as the country moved from agriculture to industry. The cause?  Increased agricultural productivity.  What was once done by 20% of the population would be accomplished [with surplus] by 2%.  Currently, the economy is moving from industry to service.  Again, this shift has been provoked by increased productivity.

What is old is new again. With a twist, of course: the impact of globalization.

Industry to service? you say.  Most Americans wince at the prospect of ‘service’ jobs—low skills, lower pay, 8 hours of mindless burger flipping.

Not really.

For instance, addressing our energy needs alone will require an abundance of high tech skills [and commensurate wages] to develop cleaner, more efficient fuels.  Support of basic research work is critical in this and other areas and leads to increased innovation and economic growth. Examples are plentiful—research produced the Internet and biotech industry, spawning huge upticks in economic growth.  And this is something Americans excel at—thinking outside the box.  Education will be required to retrain the work force and prepare and encourage our children with requisite skills and creative know how.  In addition, infrastructure, a growing national concern, offers years of labor for out-of-work construction crews.  We certainly don’t need an American version of ‘London Bridge is falling down.’  The Minneapolis bridge collapse in March was one too many.

Yes, Stiglitz says, we will need to rein in the banks, turn them back into the boring businesses they once were [they’re suppose to be serving us, not the other way around]. And we will need to seriously re-evaluate our tax policies, most of which favor the rich.  But to solve the most critical problem—structural change—will require investing in our future, our own people.  Private enterprise will not and cannot do that on a massive scale [I can hear Republicans wailing in unison].

FDR had World War II, spurring the necessary investment [spending] that launched the US into an unparalleled cycle of growth and prosperity.  We are now faced with another war, a battle of ideology and political one-upmanship.  Yet the solutions are real and within our grasp, Stiglitz suggests.  I, for one, believe him.

Now it’s a matter of mustering the national will.  We employed that fierce will during the Second World War; our survival and ultimate victory depended on it.

As it does once again.