Tuesday Reads

coffee shop1

Good Morning!!

The big news today is that President Obama appears likely to order “limited” strikes on Syria in the next few days in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against opposition fighters. From the WaPo: After Syria chemical allegations, Obama considering limited military strike.

President Obama is weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons and as a deterrent, while keeping the United States out of deeper involvement in that country’s civil war, according to senior administration officials.

The timing of such an attack, which would probably last no more than two days and involve sea-launched cruise missiles — or, possibly, long-range bombers — striking military targets not directly related to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, would be dependent on three factors: completion of an intelligence report assessing Syrian government culpability in last week’s alleged chemical attack; ongoing consultation with allies and Congress; and determination of a justification under international law.

“We’re actively looking at the various legal angles that would inform a decision,” said an official who spoke about the presidential deliberations on the condition of anonymity. Missile-armed U.S. warships are already positioned in the Mediterranean.

I guess “looking at…legal angles” is code for that pesky rule in the Constitution where Congress has to declare wars. When’s the last time that happened–WWII?

Meanwhile, BBC News reports: Russia and China step up warning over strike.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has called on the international community to show “prudence” over the crisis and observe international law.

“Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” he said in a statement.

Late on Monday, the US said it was postponing a meeting on Syria with Russian diplomats, citing “ongoing consultations” about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Hours later, Russia expressed regret about the decision. The two sides had been due to meet in The Hague on Wednesday to discuss setting up an international conference on finding a political solution to the crisis.

The Russian deputy defence minister, Gennady Gatilov said working out the political parameters for a resolution on Syria would be especially useful, with the threat of force hanging over the country.

Read more at the link.

Just as SOS Kerry was giving a speech to justify the upcoming military strikes, providing “Clear Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use in Syria” (NYT), a little birdie told Shane Harris and Matthew Aid of Foreign Policy magazine that the U.S. facilitated Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran back in 1988.

The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen, Foreign Policy has learned.

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.

U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” he told Foreign Policy.

Read the rest of this long article at Foreign Policy.

Firefighter A.J. Tevis watches the flames of the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. With winds gusting to 50 mph on Sierra mountain ridges and flames jumping from treetop to treetop, hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to protect this and other communities in the path of the Rim Fire raging north of Yosemite National Park. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Firefighter A.J. Tevis watches the flames of the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. With winds gusting to 50 mph on Sierra mountain ridges and flames jumping from treetop to treetop, hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to protect this and other communities in the path of the Rim Fire raging north of Yosemite National Park. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The wildfire in Northern California continues to spread into Yosemite National Park and has begun to threaten towns in the area. From the LA Times: Massive Rim fire continues to reshape lives and topography.

…even as firefighters worked furiously to hold a line outside of town, officials warned that this blaze was so hot it could send sparks more than a mile and a half out that could jump lines and start new hot spots. Evacuation advisories remain in effect for Tuolumne City and nearby areas.

On the north edge, the fire — now 134,000 acres — pushed into the Emigrant Wilderness Area and Yosemite National Park. It’s the one side of the fire with a natural last stand: Eventually it will run into granite walls that have snuffed out fires in this region for centuries.

Each day, what the massive blaze does depends on the wind. But officials were particularly attuned to each shift of breeze Sunday because of the weather’s eerie similarities to the day when the fire first exploded out of control.

So far the unpredictable blaze is only about 20% controlled, and it still threatens water and power sources for San Francisco.

The massive fire presents every challenge: steep slopes, dry fuel, rugged terrain and entire communities possibly in harm’s way.

The base camp and incident post, usually a haven outside fire lines, was a prominent example of the fire’s unpredictability: It’s in the middle of the burn zone, charred land with still-smoldering stumps on both sides.

Firefighters call such complete devastation “the black.” Entire ravines and ridges were a dusty gray moonscape. But some of the land was a “dirty burn” — meaning there were small circles of pine and aspen and even grass and wildflowers in the middle of charcoal-black areas where smoke still curled and embers glowed. The specks of beauty made firefighters nervous: To a fire, they are fuel.

My sister and her husband own a house north of San Francisco. It’s probably not in danger, but it still brings the scope of this disaster home to me. I sure hope Firefighers will begin to make progress soon. The burning area is now the size of the city of Chicago, according to CNN.

Yosemite National Park, California (CNN) – A massive northern California wildfire that’s threatening Yosemite National Park and San Francisco’s key water and power sources grew Monday, becoming the 13th largest in state history, state fire authorities said.

The Rim Fire, which has devoured 160,980 acres, has scorched an area about the size of the city of Chicago while more than 3,600 firefighters try to rein it in….

The wildfire, which was 20% contained Monday night, was spreading primarily to the east and threatened to grow amid extremely dry conditions and hot weather.

Part of the fire continued to spread Monday toward a key part of San Francisco’s water supply: the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which lies within Yosemite and is just east of the flames.

The fire also could threaten the area’s hydroelectric generators, which provide much of San Francisco’s electricity. Because of the approaching flames, officials shut down the generators, and the city — more than 120 miles to the west — temporarily is getting power from elsewhere.

Speaking of disasters, Charles Pierce reminds us that West, Texas is still recovering from the horrible explosion at the fertilizer plant there and that Texas still isn’t doing that much to prevent similar events in the future.
Read the rest of this entry »


Rick Perry Can’t Handle The Truth

Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee

Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee

Via Raw Story, the above cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee, published last Thursday, has Texas Governor Rick Perry all hot under the collar–so much so that he (or some flunky) wrote a letter to the editor, which the Bee published on Friday. Here it is:

Re “Business is booming in Texas” (Editorial cartoon, April 25): It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon. While I will always welcome healthypolicy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.

Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.

– Gov. Rick Perry, Austin, Tex.

So far, Ohman’s editor Stuart Leavenworth is standing up for him. You can read his full response at the above link. From Raw Story:

Stuart Leavenworth, the editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee, said the cartoon illustrated Perry’s “disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations.”

Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown chided Texas for having a high percentage of workers earning minimum wage. Perry responded about a month later by running radio ads in California that encouraged business owners to move to his state. Perry claimed building a business in California was “next to impossible” because of regulations and taxes — regulations and taxes that his state lacked.

Ohman wrote about the “controversy” on his blog today. He says that a number of readers chastised him for the cartoon.

Their comments ranged from “you are a sick human being” to “insensitive and tasteless.” I’m not sure I am clinically qualified to give myself a direct diagnosis, but I am pretty sure I am not a sick human being. Let’s explore the question of tastelessness.

The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That’s seven years ago. You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn’t really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant. Many Texas cities have little or no zoning, resulting in homes being permitted next to sparely inspected businesses that store explosive chemicals….

When I have to come up with these ideas, I can assure you that I am not really deliberately trying to be tasteless. I am not. What I am trying to do is make readers think about an issue in a striking way. I seem to have succeeded in this cartoon, one way or the other.

The question is whether it is tasteless or not.

My answer, respectfully, is that it isn’t.

Having said that, what normal person doesn’t mourn those poor people fighting the fire and living by the plant? I certainly do. What makes me angry, and, yes, I am driven by anger, is that it could have been prevented. I guess I could have done a toned-down version of the cartoon; I am not sure what that would have been, but I think many readers’ objections just stemmed from the fact that I used the explosion as a metaphor, period. The wound is fresh, the hurt still stings.

texas-governor-rick-perry

Personally, I thought the cartoon was brilliant–a perfect example of the old saying “a picture is worth a thousands words.” Apparently it got a pretty big rise out of Perry when the thousands of gallons of ink spilled on news stories hasn’t. Perry should be ashamed to show his face in public after what happened in West, Texas. Why on earth do Texans keep reelecting this guy?

Ohman recommended that Perry read this outstanding investigation by Pro Publica, which I read and recommended a few days ago: What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators? Perry should either read it or have his flunky read it to him. Then he should wake up and realize that millions of Americans disapprove of his laissez-faire, Ayn Randian approach to government, and cartoonist Jack Ohman expressed our feelings perfectly.

But I don’t expect Perry will take responsibility for his role in the West, Texas disaster, because he can’t handle the truth.


Time for Media Talking Heads to Get Out of Boston and Head Down to Texas

Firefighter conduct search and rescue of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Firefighter conduct search and rescue of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013.

I don’t watch much television, but tonight I turned on CNN for awhile. I was surprised to find that there were still numerous national reporters standing around in Watertown and Boston doing live stand-up reports. Why? The story is pretty much over at this point. What remains is mostly legal stories. Those don’t require on-sight reporting by media stars. Is it just the label “terrorism” that is keeping the national media focused on Boston?

Meanwhile, on Thursday there was a horrific disaster in the small town of West, Texas when a fertilizer plant exploded, killing 14 people, injuring 200, and destroying a school, a nursing home–basically about half of the small town. Hundreds of people in West are now homeless and desperately in need of help.

On CNN’s home page tonight, I could find only one prominently placed story about the Texas disaster: Texan town tries to rebuild with community, spirituality

Search and rescue efforts have evolved into search and recovery efforts, because officials don’t expect to find any more victims in the wreckage — alive or dead.

The explosion at West Fertilizer’s plant ruined much of the north side of town, and left hundreds of people injured, homeless and in need of help.

On television nationally, the scope of the tragedy was overshadowed by the dramatic events in New England, as investigators there pursued leads in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, then pursued their suspects.

No kidding.

A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (Houston Chronicle)

A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (Houston Chronicle)

But many Texans kept their focus on the great need close to home. Long lines of cars streamed by the community center, dropping off food, water and other rations throughout the weekend. Numerous church groups and restaurants handed out hot meals.

“These are our neighbors. They are coming to help,” Waco Police Department Sgt. William Patrick Swanton told reporters. “You will find that in Texas. You will find that across the United States. We put everything aside when it comes to these types of situations.”

The nine first responders from West who died battling the blaze represented nearly one-third of the town’s volunteer firefighting and EMT force. The fire destroyed two fire trucks and an ambulance. Firefighters and trucks from neighboring communities now fill the void at the West firehouse.

Another piece at CNN dated April 19, 11:41 PM lists “Five stories you may have missed during Boston bombings.” The list doesn’t include the Texas explosion!

There are plenty of national stories to be covered in West, Texas right now. For example, the fact that the feds had no clue of the danger that lurked inside the West Fertilizer Co. plant. The Houston Chronicle reports:

The Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency charged with regulating the highly explosive substance ammonium nitrate, wasn’t aware that West Fertilizer Co. stored 270 tons of ammonium nitrate – 1,300 times the threshold that triggers federal oversight.

But the small company did submit the information to another government agency – the Department of State Health Services.

Had federal officials been aware of the information contained in the state disclosure, DHS officials might have inspected the facility and required safer storage.

The patchwork of local, state and national laws regulating fertilizer facilities remains at the heart of the investigation into the deadly explosion that claimed 14 lives in the tiny Czech community of West. Saturday, company officials were unavailable to explain why they had not complied with DHS rules, promulgated in the last five years, requiring the disclosure of such a large quantity of ammonium nitrate.

Since 2006, the company complied with state agencies overseeing air emissions and product quality, but no state agency had the legal authority to inspect and enforce safety measures at the plant.

That is huge news! How many other industrial plants are there around the country with safety issues about which federal agencies have no knowledge? Time for the national media to get busy finding out the answer to that question.

I’m not going to go on and on about this; I think I’ve made my point. But here are a few more stories about the Texas disaster.

Huffington Post: Derrick Hurtt, West, Texas Resident, Describes Plant Explosion: ‘You Think You’re Dead’ (VIDEO)

Derrick Hurtt, a lifetime resident of West, Texas, says the major plant explosion that rocked his small hometown last week left him feeling for a split-second like he had died.

Hurtt caught the deadly blast on a cell phone camera a couple of blocks away, creating a video that ultimately went viral. The explosion at West Fertilizer Co. last week left at least 14 people dead and hundreds of others injured. Hurtt described his harrowing experience to the Waco Tribune Friday.

“It was pitch-black. You think you’re dead,” he said. “And then that mushroom sucked all the darkness back into the cloud, all that black smoke. In the daylight, you realize that you’re not dead.”

NY Daily News: Some stranded families allowed to return after West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion

Stranded families growing weary and frustrated since a deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion left them barricaded from their battered homes finally began returning Saturday, but only under a curfew and strict warnings to not wander beyond their own yards.

Authorities gave the much-awaited okay after a nervous morning. Emergency workers had told residents packed in a hotel — waiting for updates about their neighborhood — that leaking gas tanks were causing small fires near the blast site, keeping authorities from lifting blockades.

Officials quickly emphasized that the fires were contained and the town of West was not in danger. They later repeated that message as evacuees in a mile-long line of cars inched along a downtown road and toward the blast radius, although the chances that most would get to their houses Saturday night dimmed as a 7 p.m. curfew approached.

Miami Herald: 4 more first responders killed in Texas blast ID’d

On Sunday, professional organizations and family and friends identified four more of the first responders who died: brothers Doug and Robert Snokhous, who were both firefighters with the West Volunteer Fire Department; Jerry Chapman, a firefighter with the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department; and Kevin Sanders, who worked with West EMS and another area volunteer fire department.

Heartbreaking. The town didn’t even have a fire department–these were volunteers! Another report from the Miami Herald:

Buck Uptmor didn’t have to go to West Fertilizer Co. when the fire started. He wasn’t a firefighter like his brother and cousin, who raced toward the plant. But a ranch of horses next to the flames needed to be moved to safety.

“He went to help a friend,” said Joyce Marek, Uptmor’s aunt. “And then it blew.” [....]

The dead included Uptmor and Joey Pustejovsky, the city secretary who doubled as a member of the West Volunteer Fire Department. A captain of the Dallas Fire Department who was off-duty at the time but responded to the fire to help also died.

The explosion was strong enough to register as a small earthquake and could be heard for many miles across the Texas prairie. It demolished nearly everything for several blocks around the plant. More than 200 people were hurt, and Muska said five first-responders were among those who remained hospitalized Friday.

The first-responders “knew it was dangerous. They knew that thing could go up at any time,” said Ronnie Sykora, who was Pustejovsky’s deacon at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church. “But they also knew that if they could extinguish that fire before it went up, that they could save tens of lives, hundreds of lives. That’s why they were in there.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Investigators describe West explosion as a wave of destruction

WEST — On the grass outside the shredded apartment complex sat several large chunks of concrete, basketball-sized pieces of shrapnel that were sent flying by the force of Wednesday’s fertilizer plant explosion.

Officials said the concrete and other pieces of projectile had once been part of the West Fertilizer Co., which exploded about 20 minutes after a fire broke out early that evening….

When the explosion occurred, investigators said the blast radiated outward, slamming into a nearby railroad track berm. The explosion’s force was deflected upward by the berm before rushing back down to pummel the apartment complex, a nursing home and West Intermediate School and eventually moving into neighborhoods.

“The easiest way to describe it is think of a wave going out and it may come up and down with it,” said Kelly Kistner, said assistant State Fire Marshal.

The destruction from the blast spread over a 37-square-block area of West that was described as a “war zone” by Brian Hoback, the National Response Team leader with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The story says that today “a handful of reporters and photographers were allowed to see some of the areas that were hit the hardest by the explosion…” A handful of reporters? Why weren’t there well-known national broadcast reporters down there doing live stand-ups?

Here’s another story they could be covering. The actual cause of the explosion is still unknown, according to NBC News.

Investigators have located the spot where the horrific Central Texas fertilizer plant explosion occurred but do not yet know what triggered the deadly blast, town officials said Sunday.

West, Texas, fire officials said at a news briefing that there is no evidence of criminal activity in last Wednesday’s massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co., and that there are no longer any fires burning at or around the decimated facility….

A fire official announced the city has identified the “seat” — origin — of the explosion, but did not specify the exact site.

“We do have a large crater,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said.

The national media should be down in Texas finding out what the hell happened and holding federal agencies responsible for their failures–not to mention Congress and Texas state officials who have fought against government regulations on businesses. Besides I really want these bozos out of Boston. I can’t imagine how Dakinikat has put up with all these folks swarming around New Orleans over the past several years. They are driving me nuts!

President Obama should go down there too, and if he doesn’t I’d sure like to know why.


Tuesday Afternoon…Eating a horse with no name.

animal,illustration,monkey,graphic,design,stamp-c337804f9edf7d8fbf14f95bdc3ec9af_hLater today, the new power cord for my laptop should be delivered.  I hope the damn thing works.

Good Afternoon,

…my thoughts are a bit off this afternoon, almost like I’m in a Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness state of mind. Sometimes it’s difficult enough to get my thoughts organized in some kind of rational order. But today it is random and ridiculous…

Tonight is the STFU speech…oops, I mean SOTU speech. (Eh, innit the same thing?)  We will be live blogging it here, so if you are around, be sure to stop by.

Just one story for you this afternoon, and it deals with the horse meat scandal over in Great Britain. Yup, you know what I am talking about!

“Ground beef” with a touch of Mr. Ed. From the same folks who brought you Mad Cow disease…there is now “beef” being sold in England and Europe that contain horse meat.

I’m not sure we have mentioned the horsemeat scandal here on the blog, but if you have been living in a barn for the past few weeks… here is a quick review of what happening in, on and around the burger scene across the pond.

A food safety group did some investigating and found horse DNA in some cheap burger meat being sold in supermarkets in the UK and Ireland.

It did not stop there, looks like Burger Kings in Great Britain also sold the Trigger burgers, since their meat supplier was the same company who supplied the supermarkets.

Testing has revealed some Findus beef lasagne  readymeals may have contained up to 100% horsemeatThen…Hi Ho, what d’ya know… Silver found himself in other “beef” products, like frozen lasagna dinners from a company called Findus. (Now, with a name like Findus….it has to be good…cough, cough.) As with Burger King, Findus Brand frozen dinner’s “beef” was also supplied by the same smeat factory. (Smeat btw is not a typo.)

The company bringing Seabiscuit to tables across Britain and the Continent of Europe is called Tesco.  You can see Tesco’s technical director dude in the hot seat, responding to the horse DNA found in its “Trojan” beef products. View the video here:

Tesco’s technical director, Tim Smith, says his company does not yet know how many products containing horsemeat have been sold in their shops, and an investigation is under way into how it happened. Samples from one of Tesco’s burger lines contained 29% horsemeat relative to beef content. Traces of horsemeat have also been found in food products sold by Iceland, Lidl and Aldi.

Watching that man and his expressions reminds me of that SNL skit with Martin Short playing Nathan Thurm, the smoking sleazeball lawyer…

You need to see this skit, if you don’t see the video embedded below, so be sure to watch Saturday Night Live: 60 Minutes online at this link.

Minkman Toys pushes 60 Minutes to investigate fraud in the novelty item business.

60 Minutes

Mike Wallace…..Harry Shearer
Herb Minkman…..Christopher Guest
Al Minkman…..Billy Crystal
Nathan Thurm…..Martin Short

Damn, I got distracted…can’t help it, that is a great skit! Funny as hell!

Okay, where was I?

Oh yeah, the horse meat.

Today some new light has been shed on the scandal:

The Guardian: Horsemeat scandal blamed on European meat regulation changes

The UK’s horsemeat scandal was in “large part” the result of a switch from UK to foreign meat suppliers in 2012 caused by an abrupt change in European regulation that the government failed to contest, according to the expert who led the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) surveillance programme for a decade.

The change meant that “desinewed meat” (DSM), a fine mince rubbed under pressure from carcasses, could no longer be called meat on packaging. DSM produced in the UK was the main ingredient in most value-range burgers, sausages, pies and kebabs and the change meant that thousands of tonnes of meat had to be sourced from elsewhere and at low cost.

BBC News: EU ban on UK mince made suppliers vulnerable to horse meat

A former senior scientist at the Food Standards Agency says an EU decision to reclassify a type of mincemeat widely used in the UK played a significant part in creating the horsemeat crisis.

Desinewed meat was a key ingredient in value items such as pies, lasagnes and other beef products.

Dr Mark Woolfe said the decision to ban it prompted producers to go outside the UK to source supplies of cheap mince.

He also raised the possibility that UK lamb products might need testing for horsemeat.

Until 2009 Dr Woolfe was the head of authenticity at the Food Standards Agency. He says the root cause of the current horse meat crisis can be traced back to a decision taken by the European Commission less than 12 months ago to ban a key food ingredient called desinewed meat.

Under pressure

This material was introduced in the the UK in the 1990s as a replacement for mechanically recovered meat (MRM). Sometimes called “pink slime” MRM was formed by removing residual meat from animal bones using high pressure water.

It was linked to the spread of the human form of mad cow disease and the UK government took steps to restrict it from the food chain.

Desinewed meat (DSM) was developed as a higher quality form of recovered meat. It was produced using low pressure, retained some structure and was regarded as a meat ingredient on value products.

Yup, and y’all know who buys value products. Poor or low income people.

Nuff said.

Check out these headlines, some of which are a pun filled laugh:

BBC has a couple of articles, their coverage is not as intense:

Horsemeat scandal widens across EU
Beef products ‘pose no health risk’

But, The Guardian has reported a lot on the scandal:

Tesco says some of its value spaghetti bolognese contains 60% horsemeat

Eating horsemeat: what are the steaks?

Horsemeat scandal: ‘immediate testing will be done’ in schools, hospitals and prisons, says environment secretary – video

Contaminated horsemeat could harm health, warns environment secretary
Horsemeat scandal exposes the cheap food imperative

The Independent is also reporting that beef may not be the only product containing horse meat….or, carne con caballo ala Flicka:

Horsemeat scandal: Chicken and pork products may also be contaminated warns FSA, as Tesco admits Every Day Value Spaghetti Bolognese contains up to 100% horsemeat

‘Yes we sold horse – but it was labelled correctly’: French suspicious over abattoir linked to Romanian minister

Galloping into controversy over Findus

Horsemeat: Regulation doesn’t taste so bad now, does it?

Big business is bad news for good food – and horse meat may be the least of our problems

From horse to lasagne: Findus, supply chains, and why buying local is the answer in an ideal world only

Damn, what a mess! However, I do love the puns in some of those headlines…the Brits have a great sense of humor.

This is an open thread…


Sunday Round-Up

coffee birdGood Morning

My daughter is still sick with the flu, but she is getting better…unfortunately I think she has passed it on to me. I am just hoping that my flu shot kicks in and the symptoms don’t get any worse.

Here’s the latest news out of Newtown. (And there is really nothing “new” in the way of information…and Philo Vance, I mean Paul Vance has been conspicuously absent, is his microphone packed away for good?)

From the Hartford Courant, we have our only bit of new information on the investigation.  Sandy Hook Shooter’s Pause May Have Aided Students’ Escape

As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza‘s deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

A source said that the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shootings is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.

The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six educators Lanza killed in Newtown after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.

On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated it had anything to do with the shootings.

Finally, some sort of words about Lanza and medical records. Damn, it has been like Adam Lanza just dropped out of nowhere, no records or “social networking” footprints have been found. (I still think it is all too strange, the silence…and the attitude of the various “authorities.” Something still feels fishy to me!)

Anyway, you can watch the Newtown police chief interview here, it is a quick few minutes at the start of the CBS Evening News: 12/22: Newtown police chief shares his story- CBS News Video

The chief also shares his opinion on armed patrol officers guarding schools. That should be  enough of a tease for you to watch it.

Another thing to give a few minutes to is this report from All Things Considered: Near-Replica Of Sandy Hook Made Nearby For Students : NPR

I’d love to hear from Dr. Boomer about the new school being made into a “near-replica” of a place so many of these children survivors associate with unbelievable violence and horrible death.

On the subject of this carnage in the classroom, Roland Martin has this op/ed on CNN America should see the Newtown carnage

“One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom.”

That’s a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo.

When taping this week’s edition of my show, “Washington Watch,” Sirius/XM Radio host Joe Madison somberly said the same thing. Joe remarked that Emmett’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for her son so the world could see what was done to him by racists in Mississippi.

Many Americans may not even remember Emmett Till, a precocious 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman in a store, and the woman’s husband and his brother later went to the home where Till was staying, pulled him out of his bed, took him somewhere and beat him to a pulp, gouged out his eye, blew the back of his head away with a gun, attached a cotton gin with barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.

I think Martin may have a point. Look at the images from the Civil War, and how they shaped the mindset of the population. It brought the bloody war home to the people in a way that stories in the newspapers could not.

When Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper published his battered face on their covers, it sent shock waves throughout America, and especially in the black community. The brutality of lynchings were talked about and covered, yet for the world to witness with its own eyes the end result of vicious bigotry, it forced the nation to examine its conscience.

“There was just no way I could describe what was in that box,” Mamie said. “No way. And I just wanted the world to see.”

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, we have seen numerous photos of the beautiful, smiling faces of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images we have become accustomed to include them singing at a piano, sporting the gear of a favorite sports team and others. When we think of them being memorialized it’s in the context of teddy bears, candles and flowers.

Americans want to remember them as vibrant and fun-loving children, but will that actually shake the conscience of America to do something about how they were gunned down in the classroom?

Please go read the rest, and let me know what you think about viewing the crime scene photos, and if that can make the horror more real to those people who seem bent on keeping gun control/legislation as is…and actually put more guns and assault weapons in the hands of the regular public, who don’t need these kind of semi-automatic military rifles to shoot a deer.

Speaking of those pro-gun lobbyist, take a look at this: Newtown’s firearms tradition clashes with gun control push

When the wind blows a certain way across the tree-topped hills, Gary Bennett can stand in his yard and hear echoes of gunfire from his hunting club five miles away. The sound comforts him.

“It’s a huge tradition here,” said Bennett, a retired electrician and former president of the club, which helped defeat a proposal to tighten Newtown, Conn.’s gun ordinances in September. “I’d rather see more gun clubs come to town, training people with the use of firearms so that everyone’s doing it safely.”

Anguished families are still burying the 20 children and six women who were shot to death by a lone gunman Dec. 14 just after the morning Pledge of Allegiance at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But a surprising local undercurrent has emerged: Many gun owners here say the slaughter has sharpened their view that guns alone aren’t the problem.

The article interviews folks who feel that there should be armed people at these schools.  “Somebody…” to take out the shooter. But all I can say is go back and watch that interview with the Newtown Police Chief, who does not think that armed patrol is the answer.

I’ve got one story here about Walmart, funny in a way: Walmart Sells Assault Weapons But Bans Music With Swear Words

Yup, no sale of music that contains the words, “fuck you” but they will gladly sell assault weapons that are only good for “fucking someone up…” killing them and making the surviving family’s life a living hell.

The rest of the links are slightly connected…I mentioned photographs of the disfigured and bloated dead Civil War soldiers above, well this past week was the anniversary of one of the most deadliest series of battles fought. From the New York Times: ‘The Day the Stars Wept’

The majority of fighting at Fredericksburg had ground to a halt as the sun slipped below the horizon on Dec. 13, 1862. Ghastly piles of dead men and horses were scattered in the fields, and the woods were littered with abandoned equipment and debris. Sporadic gunfire continued as exhausted survivors on both sides ventured out into the war-blasted landscape to rescue wounded comrades.

In one sector of the battlefield, the men of the Fourth Vermont Infantry had endured a day of intense enemy artillery and infantry fire. The regiment suffered more than 50 casualties, including 18 killed and wounded when a spray of lead balls from single Confederate canister shot tore into one company.

Whether it is images of this American Civil War or photos of the other civil war, the war for civil rights, fought one hundred years later…or the war in Europe…being able to look at images of the dead, or smell the shoes of thousands of holocaust victims, can we learn from the violence. It is the only way to stay connected with the past, and make sure we do not forget it.

Illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s sketch of pickets near Fredericksburg, circa December 1862
Library of Congress Illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s sketch of pickets near Fredericksburg, circa December 1862

The Vermonters occupied a skirmish line in the twilight. George Washington Quimby, the 27-year-old acting major of the regiment, stood conspicuously among the men. A peacetime high school principal, he cautioned his boys to “keep low to avoid danger” while random shots whizzed through the air. They obeyed the command and sat or lay down.

On the Confederate side, a soldier leveled his musket and squeezed the trigger. Hammer struck percussion cap and caused a spark that ignited gunpowder and propelled a conical shaped Minié bullet down the muzzle.

Quimby never saw it coming.

Read the rest of that NYT story at the link up top, and you can see images of the dead and read more about the battle here:

Battle of Fredericksburg – December 1862 Civil War Battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia

http://0.tqn.com/d/history1800s/1/0/Z/-/-/-/Antietam-roadside-fence-Gardner.jpg

Photo via the Library of congress.

In other news, the White House has changed its “opinion” of those frankenfish… I mean, genetically engineered fish. White House Reverses Itself, Lifts Political Block on FDA Approval of GM Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration today released an electronic version of its Environmental Assessment for a genetically modified (GM) salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts—effectively giving its preliminary seal of approval on the first transgenic animal to be considered for federal approval.

According to sources within FDA, the EA had been approved by the all the relevant agencies on April 19, 2012, but had been blocked for release on orders from inside the executive branch—which has raised both legal and ethical issues of political interference with science and the independent work of federal agencies.

The decision by the White House to rescind its order to block the FDA from releasing the EA came Wednesday within hours after the publication of an investigative report by the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) last Wednesday documenting that the executive branch had been hold the EA for political reasons.

Well fuuuuuuuck…..that!  And of course, this change of heart comes during a media filled frenzy of Fiscal Cliffs, dead children, Santa and Gun Control. Humph!

I’ve got another fish story for you, Megapiranha put T. rex’s bite to shame, says study

You ready for this?

Tyrannosaurus rex and megalodon, a gigantic shark that preceded the great white, have nothing on the black piranha and the extinct megapiranha when it comes to chomping power. Researchers at George Washington University report that, relative to its size, the megapiranha bite was more powerful than T. Rex and history’s largest shark. According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the black piranha was determined to have a biting force behind its powerful teeth of up to 320 Newtons.

“Comparisons of body size-scaled bite forces to other apex predators reveal S. rhombeus and M. paranensis have among the most powerful bites estimated in carnivorous vertebrates. Our results functionally demonstrate the extraordinary bite of serrasalmid piranhas and provide a mechanistic rationale for their predatory dominance among past and present Amazonian ichthyofaunas,” the authors write in their study.

Holy Ceviche! That is some powerful jaws…

…the piranhas’ aggressive nature, small body size and easy-to-access populations make them a great group of predatory vertebrates in which to examine the evolution of powerful chomping capabilities. Researchers believe that piranhas will attack and rip chunks of fins and flesh from prey regardless of size. Prior to this study, however, no data on the piranhas biting powers was available for researchers to use.

Researchers gathered the first bite-force measurements from wild specimens of the black piranha. Using these measurements, they were able to better understand the fundamental functional morphology of the jaws that gives the black piranha the ability to chomp down on its prey with a force that is more than 30 times greater than its weight. Researchers contend that this powerful biting force comes from the large muscle mass of the black piranha’s jaw and the deft transmission of its big contractile force through a modified jaw-closing lever.

Researchers believe that the ancient megapiranha shared a common trait with black piranhas: An extremely powerful bite. They reconstructed the bite force of the megapiranha and found that, despite its small body size, the chomping power of this extinct piranha was more powerful than that of megalodon.

Lots more at the link.

And finally, let’s end this post with a pretty picture, cold…sharp and clean:  Frost Flowers…Suddenly There’s A Meadow In The Ocean With ‘Flowers’ Everywhere

…little protrusions of ice, delicate, like snowflakes. They began growing in the dry, cold air “like a meadow spreading off in all directions. Every available surface was covered with them.” What are they?

“Frost flowers,” he was told. “I’d never heard of them,” Jeff says, “but they were everywhere.”

Frost flowers in the central Arctic Ocean.

Stay warm and enjoy the last Sunday before Christmas…see you later in the comment section!