The good news in my world is that a very nice man who lives across the street from me volunteered to shovel my car out yesterday. I had managed to clear my front porch steps and sidewalk, but I never could have finished the driveway by myself. I would have had to keep shoveling today. The bad news is that more snow is expected tonight and there’s a possibility of another big storm on Monday. But for today, I’m happy that I don’t have to shovel and I can get to the store and stock up on supplies before the next onslaught.
I’m a little bit punch drunk from the Blizzard of 2015 (which definitely wasn’t a “bust” in Massachusetts), so I hope you’ll forgive me for beginning with some lightweight stories today.
Did you hear about the Boston Yeti? As the blizzard ramped up on Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported sightings of a strange creature wandering around town, enjoying the snow.
BOSTON (AP) — The monster storm in Boston has brought with it another monster – a yeti.
The white, furry phantom has been getting laughs by walking through the blizzard in a sasquatch suit.
One was spotted in downtown Copley Square. Another was sighted trying to hail a cab in suburban Somerville.
New England Cable News reporter Tony Sabato tweeted a photo of the not-so-elusive creature. Above a snapshot of the yeti looking rather pensive, he wrote, “Found the yeti in the blizzard at Copley Square in Boston.”
From The Boston Globe: Boston Yeti on the loose during storm.
While the identity of the Boston Yeti remains unknown, the user behind this Twitter account appears to have created it on Monday ahead of the storm, amassing more than 4,700 followers by Tuesday evening. The hashtag#BostonYeti2015 took on a social life of its own as Twitter users reacted to Boston’s surprise monster of the storm.
With all of the city’s instructions to stay off the roads, the Boston Yeti didn’t appear to listen, at least in Somerville during the start of Juno. But this abominable snowman did seem to want fellow Bostonians to be careful, telling folks on Twitter that “BostonYeti2015 loves the snow, but wants everyone to be safe.”
Here’s one sighting of the Boston Yeti:
Where were you hiding before it started to snow?
Here and there. The woods, mainly.
What have you done in Boston since emerging?
Waving to kids, bustling through the snow showers. Trying to make as many people smile as possible….
Have you eaten anyone’s cat? We know you need nourishment.
I’m a vegan.
Have you shoveled at all for anyone?
Yes, two separate families that needed an extra claw…I mean, hand. They promised not to take my photo if I shoveled. I was more than happy to help….
What do you say to the people who think you’re nothing but a guy in a costume walking around? You know, the non-believers.
People will believe whatever they want. I know my existence has been debated for decades. In some ways it’s fun to think some don’t believe. All I can say is that I’m very real and love everyone—even those non-believers.
Okay, it’s a corny story, but anything that can make people laugh during a giant storm is a good thing in my mind. Those of us living inland need to keep in mind that for people along the coast this storm was no joke. Here’s just one scene of coastal flooding in the South Shore town of Scituate.
Now another strange but heartwarming story from Tampa, Florida: the tale of a zombie cat. CNN reports: ‘Zombie cat’ presumed dead found alive five days after burial.
Bart, or “zombie cat” as the feline is now being referred to on social media, was discovered “unresponsive” by his owner last week lying in a pool of blood. His body was cold and his face was severely disfigured.
“If we’d seen that cat on the road, we’d assumed he was dead,” Nash McCuthchen with the Humane Society told CNN.
Bart’s owner, Ellis Hutson, along with the help of a neighbor, buried his beloved pet in his yard.
Five days later, a different neighbor found Bart walking in her yard, after he seemingly clawed his way out of the grave.
The neighbor returned the cat to Hutson, who called the Humane Society for help.
Bart was in bad shape, McCutchen said, with maggots covering open wounds on his body, and he had difficulty walking. The cat was dehydrated, his left eye ruined.
But remarkably, McCutchen said, the kitty had no internal injuries, making the Humane Society able to treat him. Bart had surgery Wednesday to remove his left eye and wire his jaw shut.
Amazingly, Bart is expected to fully recover from his injuries, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“He’s doing well,” said Sherry Silk, executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which is caring for the cat after a nearly two-hour operation Tuesday.
Nash McCutchen, the organization’s marketing coordinator, said Bart will recover with rest following a blood transfusion Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s been through a lot,” said McCutchen, who said a shelter cat will be donating the blood to get Bart back up to speed.
See some video of Bart at the link.
In other, more serious, news . . .
The battle between Democrats and House Speaker John Boehner over a scheduled speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ramping up over the past week. The New York Times reports that the White House has signaled its “outrage” over the unauthorized invitation issued by Republican House leaders by harshly criticizing Israel’s Ambassador, Ron Dermer, for helping to arrange the invitation.
Today Reuters reports: Pelosi says Netanyahu speech to Congress could hurt Iran talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to the U.S. Congress in March could damage the Obama administration’s attempts to broker a deal with Iranon nuclear weapons development, the senior U.S. House of Representatives Democrat said on Wednesday.
“Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi during a news conference on the sidelines of an annual retreat for Democratic lawmakers.
But Pelosi stopped short of saying that the invitation to Netanyahu should be withdrawn by House Speaker John Boehner.
Earlier this month Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of the House and Senate and the speech is scheduled for March 3, just two weeks before the Israeli leader stands for re-election on March 17.
Boehner, who did not consult with the White House before extending the invitation, has defended his surprise invitation.
A spokesman for Pelosi said she spoke by telephone on Wednesday with Netanyahu, but he did not provide further details.
Here’s some commentary on the controversy by Jonathan Chait: Why Benjamin Netanyahu Lost His Mind.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in one of his trademark gestures of narcissistic venality, decided to set up an address to the United States Congress without notifying the executive branch of the American government. The maneuver is so unusual that Netanyahu’s former ally and ambassador to the U.S. called on him to reverse course. Even Fox Newshas questioned him. Jeffrey Goldberg attempts to understand what Netanyahu might have been thinking. “Why doesn’t Netanyahu understand that alienating Democrats is not in the best interest of his country?” he asks. “From what I can tell, he doubts that Democrats are — or will be shortly — a natural constituency for Israel, and he clearly believes that Obama is a genuine adversary.”
Netanyahu’s behavior might be best understood as the expression of a kind of apocalypticism that has always colored right-wing Zionist thought, but which has gained force over the last dozen years or so. Right-wing Zionists have grown increasingly convinced of a series of interconnected propositions: that Israel (or the Jewish people) faces an existential threat; that opposition to Israel is a pure function of anti-Semitism and therefore cannot be mollified; and that liberal Zionists are at best useless as allies and at worst detrimental to the cause of preserving Israel from the onslaught.
One obvious cause of the Zionist right’s deepening millennialism is Iran’s quest to obtain a nuclear weapon. In comparison with other military threats to Israel, right-wing and liberal Zionists think of this development in strikingly different terms. Moderates and liberals consider a nuclearized Iran a serious strategic problem. But they also consider military options useless to stop it, and further believe that a nuclear Iran can be deterred. (Kenneth Pollack, a former Clinton aide most famous as an Iraq hawk, has made the case for the possibility of deterring Iran.) In this view, Iran’s nuclear ambitions represent a threat to be avoided, if at all possible, with sanctions and covert sabotage. Conservative Zionists see the matter much more starkly. The Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat best understood in the context of the Holocaust denialism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Read the rest at the link.
At The Hill, Brett Budowsky sees the Netanyahu invitation as just part of “The great GOP overreach.”
While Republicans bask in the glory of their victories in 2014 and continue their hyperpartisan onslaught in the new Congress, some early numbers should keep GOP strategists awake at night.
According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, Hillary Clinton would defeat Jeb Bush in 2016 by 13 percentage points. She would defeat Chris Christie by 13 points, Rand Paul by 13 and Mitt Romney by 15.
According to the summary of polling from Real Clear Politics, approval of the Republican Congress is barely 15 percent. Disapproval remains near 72 percent. Control of Congress means ownership of the vast unpopularity of Congress.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s popularity has risen significantly since November. The stage is set for Clinton to begin a 2016 campaign with a significant lead over GOP opponents and run against a highly unpopular Republican Congress.
Voters see Republicans overreaching and underachieving. They see the GOP repeating ritual attacks against Obama and Clinton as though the 2014 campaign never ended. They see Republicans moving to pass political bills they know will never be enacted, such as old attacks against ObamaCare, and opposing important bills voters do want enacted, such as immigration reform. They see the GOP stage phony hearings on Benghazi that are nothing more than taxpayer-financed attacks against Hillary Clinton.
There is a GOP distemper in Washington, an overreaching of aggressive tactics against Democrats and an underachievement of success in governing. The result? Obama rises in favorability, Clinton rises against Republicans.
Head over to The Hill to read the rest.
Two stories of injustices overturned.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Marissa Alexander walked away from the Duval County courthouse Tuesday after a judge ruled she will not serve any additional jail time.
Judge James Daniel denied the State’s request for an additional two years of probation and ruled that Alexander will serve two years of house arrest while wearing an ankle monitor, an agreement reached in an November 2014 plea deal.
Alexander claims she fired a gun at her estranged husband, Rico Gray, in self-defense.
I thought she fired into the ceiling . . .
“Four and a half years have passed since the events of August 1, 2010, but today after the sentence imposed the Judge Daniel, my family and I will be able to move forward with out lives,” Alexander said during a meeting with the media in front of the courthouse.
“Although the journey has been long, and there have been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here where I am today without the many thoughts and prayers of so many people who have voiced their support and encouragement,” Alexander said as she read from a prepared statement.
According to the terms of the plea, Alexander was ordered to serve three years in jail after pleading guilty to all three counts against her. Alexander will get credit for the 1,030 days she’s already spent in jail. However, the second count against Alexander is considered an ‘open plea,’ she could have been sentenced to five years in jail at the hearing.
More than a half-century after they were arrested and sentenced to hard labor for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter in South Carolina, a group of African-American student protesters known as the “Friendship Nine” had their convictions overturned and sentences vacated Wednesday.
The moment was met with applause and a standing ovation in the court room.
Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III made the ruling. “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history,” the judge said. He then signed the order, and the prosecutor apologized to the men. Hayes is the nephew of the judge who sentenced the “Friendship Nine” to jail in 1961.
All eight surviving members of the “Friendship Nine” attended the morning hearing in a municipal courtroom in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They were represented in the hearing by Ernest A. Finney Jr., the same man who defended their case 54 years ago. He went on to become the first black chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court since Reconstruction.
The actions of the Friendship Nine established a strategy “breathed new life into the Civil Rights Movement,” according to the article.
These reversals are too little too late, but I guess we have to be grateful for any progress in these Republican-controlled times.
I have more links, but I’ll put them in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?
If you want to kill some time today, check out these images of Lego greatness:
Over a thousand pictures here: Lego Art on Pinterest
There is even a Klimt in this one: Lego mania on Pinterest
And more artsy fartsy stuff here: Lego Creations on Pinterest
Why do I bring all this up? Because today’s post is going to center around popular culture and nothing represents that more than Legos…used as an artistic representation in historic museums.
As a history major, and a geeky one at that…you know being a wonky sort of history geek, specifically Medieval, I don’t know how to feel about this.
I am so enthralled with these works of Lego art, the detail, the delight it brings…but there is also a part of me that thinks…Lego? Used in a legitimate archaeological/historical sense? Then I slap myself and say, don’t be such a pompous ass JJ…get over your fucking self. These things are not your typical play toy Lego “houses” just look at the scale models the artist create.
The latest made its debut in Sydney this past month. LEGO Pompeii Excites New Audiences – Archaeology Magazine
Professional LEGO builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught has crafted a model of Pompeii at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum, according to The Conversation. The project, which took more than 500 hours to complete and used more than 190,000 blocks, is one of the largest LEGO historical models ever built. The display shows three phases of the ancient city: as it looked in A.D. 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted; as it appeared when it was rediscovered in the eighteenth century; and as the ruins stand today. Over the past two years, McNaught created a scale model of the Colosseum out of the colorful bricks, and the LEGO Acropolis, now on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
This thing is amazing!
From the link to the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum above: Lego Pompeii creates less pomp and more yay in the museum
Lego Pompeii was painstakingly recreated from more than 190,000 individual blocks across 470 hours for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum – it’s the largest model of the ancient city ever constructed out of Lego blocks. There is a mix of ancient and modern elements within the model’s narrative; displaying Pompeii as it was at the moment of destruction by the volcano Vesuvius in 79AD, as it was when rediscovered in the 1700s, and as it is today.
The historical model is the exhibition centrepiece in an archaeological museum where, until recently, displays of Lego would have been unthinkable.
The Nicholson Museum, with collections of artefacts from the Mediterranean region, Egypt and the Middle East, is a place where visitors can expect to see Greek vases, Egyptian sculpture and ceramic sherds from Jericho.
Yet since 2012, the museum has commissioned professional Lego builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught to recreate three ancient sites made from Lego. Together these models represent an interesting experiment; attracting a new audience to the museum space and demonstrating the importance of fun in a museum context.
This is not the first rodeo for The Brickman…
The first Nicholson Lego scale model was a replica of the Colosseum in Rome.
The joy of the model was its ability to contrast the old with the new. Half the model featured the amphitheatre in antiquity; the other half featured the building in ruins with Lego modern tourists.
The model proved such a success it subsequently toured several regional NSW galleries and museums. It is currently displayed at the Albury Regional Art Gallery along with Roman artefacts from the Nicholson Museum’s collection.
Go to the Nicholson Museum link to read the rest of the story, and how The Brickman studied and designed his Lego city of Pompeii.
Brickman is one of Lego’s Certified Professionals, these people have amazing jobs…check out some of the artist work at that link. (Mini Bios at that link too.) It seems that most of these LCP’s are men…but I have not researched enough of the culture to be sure of this…that is just my observation as I look through the websites and images. And, the one woman that is a Certified Professional is associated with education, autism, special needs and using Lego as a teaching tool. But I will just say this is only my thoughts on the matter. Let’s just go on with the post.
Alright then, how about that Blizzard? Here’s some pictures for you:
City dwellers in New York hoping to wake up to mountains of snow will have to content themselves with trawling Instagram pictures from New England. The blizzard of 2015—or really the #blizzardof2015 if we’re doing this right—brought less snow than expected to New York City and a number of points south. But to the east on Long Island and north throughout New England, the storm has lived up to, and in some ways exceeded, expectations with heavy snow and coastal flooding.
Snow totals are still being updated but as of Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service weather spotter has reported the highest total from the storm so far, with 30 inches in Framingham, Mass. Other central Massachusetts and South Shore locations have also piled up more than 2 feet of snow.
The second-highest snow total comes 28.5 inches measured in Orient, N.Y., on the far eastern tip of Long Island. In both places, wind gusts are piling up drifts and sending snow cresting over the eaves of houses.
But there has been some complaining. For a look at the technical side of forecast, Cliff Mass Weather Blog: Forecast Lessons from the Northeast Snowstorm
The complaints swelled quickly this morning, both in the social media and the press:
National Weather Service forecasters had predicted two to three feet over New York City and adjacent suburbs for Tuesday and only about 8-10 inches showed up.
The city had been shut down overnight–travel banned on major roadways, mass transportation systems (e.g., subways) closed, schools and businesses closed–and all for a minor snow event! A few samples from the press illustrates some of the commentary:
And then a National Weather Service forecaster even apologized for a “blown forecast”, something that doesn’t happen very often.
And you had to expect that some global warming critic would use the forecast troublex to cast doubt on global warming predictions.
So what is the truth about this forecast event? As I will describe below, although the forecast “bust” was not as bad as it might appear, it did reveal some significant weaknesses in how my profession makes and communicates forecasts, weaknesses that National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini says he recognizes and will attempt to fix.
The general forecast situation was well understood and skillfully forecast starting on Saturday. A low center (a midlatitude cyclone) would develop off the SE U.S. and then move northward up the East Coast–a storm commonly called a Nor’easter. Here is a surface weather map at 4 AM PST this morning, when the storm was near its height. In such a location, the storm can pull cold air off the continent while swirling in moisture from off the ocean. The result is moderate to heavy snow to the west and north of the low center, as well as strong winds over the same areas. Thirty years ago we could not forecast these storms with any skill. That has changed.
Go and read how it has changed at the link.
In other science-ish news, y’all know that big ass rock that flew by us Monday?
A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar. Image via Slooh.com.
Check this shit out:
Radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 confirm the primary asteroid is 1,100 feet (325 meters) across with a small moon 230 feet (70 meters) across.
Wow! Scientists working with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86, which flew closer to Earth on Monday than any asteroid this large will again until the year 2027. Closest approach was 1619 UTC (11:19 a.m. EST) on January 26, 2015. Nearest distance was about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon). The radar images confirm what other astronomers first discovered this past weekend, that asteroid 2004 BL86 has its own small moon!
Let us move from science to environment, but still on a pop culture connection…cause what else would you expect from something like this? Chinese Methanol Plant in Louisiana ‘Cancer Alley’ | Al Jazeera America
Uh, okay… I will just give you a quick overview of the area and the situation. This plant is poisoning people. These people are poor. They are people of color. Nuff Said!
This article is the second installment of a three-part series on China’s role in redeveloping southern Louisiana called China’s Louisiana Purchase. The first part investigated links between Chinese government officials, Chinese gas giant Shandong Yuhuang and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — No one asked Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose if he wanted a Chinese company with a controversial environmental record to build a methanol plant in his neighborhood. But if they had, the 74-year-old Vietnam War vet would have said no.
A town hall meeting about it in July at St. James High School, which is close to the site of the plant, in a sparsely populated area with mobile homes and a few farms, took place only after the St. James Parish Council approved the project.
“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Ambrose, a coordinator at St. James Catholic Church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”
The St. James Parish Council did not respond to interview requests at time of publication.
Edwin Octave, 92, who lives with his family in the area, agreed with Ambrose. “I don’t think the way they went about getting the plant was right. They bought the property before they tell people it’s going to happen.”
The area has gotten the nickname Cancer Alley. I don’t know the state of Louisiana is becoming more and more like the poster child for all that is bad and could be bad when fuckwads get elected and have shit everything up. “Literally.”
There is a term being used, it is called Environmental Racism.
St. James Parish gas station owner Kenny Winchester said he hopes U.S. environmental standards will be enough to prevent any abuses too detrimental to the health of his community. “There shouldn’t be a problem if they follow the rules,” he said. “If they take shortcuts, we’ll have a problem.”
But Malek-Wiley said that hope isn’t realistic. “It’s not feasible to just hope they will abide by regulations. Most of the industry environmental reporting requirements are done by companies without a secondary check with the Department of Environmental Quality or EPA,” he said. “In effect, if a company was doing wrong, it would have to write itself a ticket. I know every time I’m going down the interstate too fast and there’s no cop, I pull over and write myself a ticket … No, it doesn’t happen that way.”
The only way to tell if a company breaches regulations, he said, is “after the plant’s built, unfortunately.” An environmentalist nonprofit focused on opposing petrochemical pollution in the region, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, could “teach folks how to take air samples in their community,” he said, and that tactic has led to “a number of companies to be fined for air pollution, but that’s after the fact.”
After successfully organizing legal bids around black communities not consulted on energy projects, Malek-Wiley believes that “with St. James Parish, they could have brought up concerns about environmental racism.”
How could this plant have been allowed to contaminate the groundwater for 40 years? How could the explosives have been left at the site in the first place? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be the money or the will to more safely remove them? Can we imagine anyone, with a straight face, proposing to openly burn millions of pounds of explosives near Manhattan or Seattle?
This is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of “environmental racism,” in which disproportionately low-income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities.
There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity.
Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Bullard published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. In it, he pointed out that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s hazardous-waste landfill capacity was in “five Southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas),” and that “four landfills in minority ZIP codes areas represented 63 percent of the South’s total hazardous-waste capacity” although “blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South’s total population.”
More recently, in 2012, a study by researchers at Yale found that “The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.”
Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe.
I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount.
BTW, Bullard’s website with lots of links can be found here: Environmental Justice / Environmental Racism
I just get so damn sick about all this.
But if you want some more sick shit to read, the Koch Brothers.
And again…going back to the pop culture of the day…that link will take you to an article and then a video with a discussion from Cenk Unger and Ben Mankiewicz .
In other news, something that is really becoming too frequent a headline. Yet another college athlete is accused of raping a woman…this time it is a swimmer. Fancy that? Former Stanford swimmer accused of raping unconscious woman on campus – LA Times
…former Stanford University swimmer will face several felony charges after prosecutors say he raped a woman as she lay unconscious on campus grounds.
Brock Allen Turner, 19, is expected to be formally charged Wednesday with five felony counts, including rape of an unconscious woman, rape of an intoxicated woman and two counts of sexual assault with a foreign object, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office told The Times.
Early on the morning on Jan. 18, prosecutors say, two men riding bikes on campus spotted a man later identified as Turner on top of an unconscious woman. Turner ran away, but the pair tackled him. A third person called police.
Turner was arrested, booked into the Santa Clara County Jail and released after posting $150,000 bail, prosecutors said. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 2.
It is a good thing those two bike dudes went after the asshole.
Just a few more pops on the pop links: Gabrielle Union Says Smart Things About Ferguson, the NFL, Hollywood
On the events in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, Yahoo points out that she generally tries to stay positive in her public comments and Union acknowledges that she makes an effort to be responsible about what she says publicly:
There’s a bit of a gap between what I really want to say and what I know is responsible to say. The general lack of compassion for your fellow man is really frustrating. I think what the protesters are saying, or at least some of them, is it’s not just about police brutality. It’s about a widespread systematic crippling of some people in this country by birthright, and no one’s acknowledging it. There may be a power shakeup if you’re really going to do something about it. A lot of people aren’t interested in that. They say, “It’s not that bad. We have Barack Obama. We’re good.” Or, “You’re not getting lynched.” They’re not acknowledging the institutional racism that impacts daily lives.
You should read the other things Unions says, it is nice to see a smart woman being quoted…too bad it probably won’t get much attention outside of Yahoo Entertainment and Jezebel.
Also, in History News, Seventy Years After Auschwitz, One Survivor Has Her Revenge – Truthdig
Eva Slonim was a child when she was taken to Auschwitz, where she was tortured and experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.
The camps that made up the Auschwitz complex were liberated 70 years ago by Soviet troops. But not before the Nazis killed 1.1 million prisoners there.
Slonim was held with her twin sister in a special section of the camp, which had to do with Mengele’s fascination with twins.
She tells the Australian Broadcasting Corp. she is still haunted by the trauma: “I have this madness about locking the bedroom door every night, and I have a light under the door so I can see if there are any boots there.”
But, Eva Slonim says, she got her revenge in the end, by producing a large family to take the place of the one she lost. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has 27 grandchildren.
Have you seen this?
Finally, let’s get a little Medieval on ya: Erik Kwakkel • A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great…
A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great post.
Medieval Connections to ‘Classical Roots’
This manuscript (British Library, Royal MS 20 D I) of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (‘Ancient history up to Caesar’) is the earliest surviving manuscript of the second redaction of this work. This redaction, like this manuscript, was produced in Naples around 1330-1340. It focuses on the story of Troy, which is no longer taken from Dares, a supposed eyewitness of the fall of Troy, but from the prose version of Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Roman de Troie. As a result, it is much more extensive.
The goal of these types of histories was to join the classical past and the medieval present. The author, therefore, did not always keep historical accuracy in mind if it did not fit his purpose. This allowed nobles to bind themselves and their families to classical founders.
I love that the horse is supposed to represent the wooden horse, and the scribe/artist drew the thing with wood-like knots and tree rings as the pattern of the horse itself.
But I wonder if a large wooden badger would not have been more appropriate?
Have a wonderful day and for Gawds sake…watch out for the Knights who say Ni!
Tonight President Obama will give his sixth State of the Union Address. Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy to benefit the middle class. Obviously that isn’t going to pass muster with our Republican Congress, but maybe it will at least embarrass some members just a little bit. We’ll have a live blog tonight during the speech, and I hope you’ll join us.
Here are a few stories to check out before tonight.
From The Washington Post: Obama will give State of Union address against backdrop of deep partisan divide. Author David Nakamura seems concerned that the president isn’t interested in being “conciliatory” toward Republicans.
The president will enter the House chamber Tuesday night for his sixth State of the Union address riding a wave of confidence driven by an improving economy and brightening public approval ratings. And he seems as defiant as ever.
Although Obama has vetoed just two bills in his six years, the White House has threatened to veto five measures from Congress this month alone — including legislation that would authorize the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security to a rollback of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and impose new economic sanctions on Iran.
Obama vowed in a private meeting with Democrats last week that he will play “offense” during the final two years of his presidency, building on the aggressive executive actions he laid out over the past two months. The legislative proposals he has previewed — including a plan for free community college and a revamping of the tax code — have been based firmly on his terms, drawing objections from Republicans.
The nerve of this guy! He tried to reach across the aisle for years, and now he’s given up the ghost. Shocking.
Joni Ernst is not the next Sarah Palin.
And Tuesday night, she’ll get the chance to prove it.
The SOTU will be followed by a Republican response by newly elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Will she castrate a hog during her presentation? Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast writes:
Ernst, the gun totin’, hog castrating freshman Republican senator from Iowa will give her party’s response to the State of the Union—a tricky, high-profile task that have landed many before her at the bad end of a punchline.
But the prime time address not only gives Ernst a chance to show off her Iowa charm, it gives her the opportunity to shed the comparison to Sarah Palin that she attracted as she campaigned through the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties last year as a populist conservative.
Once called an “onion of crazy” by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schutz (D-Fla.), the Iowa senator first gained national attention in a crowded, if undistinguished, primary field with an television ad about castrating hogs. She followed that up with another advertisement that featured her in safety glasses firing away at a target while the voiceover boasted that she kept “more than lipstick in her purse.”
CNN notes that recent responses to the SOTU have not gone well and asks “Is the State of the Union response cursed?”
“It’s almost like the kiss of death to get picked to do the Republican response,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It represents an amazing opportunity to catapult yourself into the national conversation, but the risk is huge and the success rate has been minimal at best in recent years.”Republicans couldn’t have been more excited to spotlight their Indian-American wunderkind Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, in response to the first black President’s address to a joint session of Congress. But all party bigwigs and critics alike were talking about the next day was Jindal’s awkward delivery, not his prospects for higher office — and certainly not GOP diversity.
It was a moment reminiscent of then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D-Virginia) 2006 response, when he was outdone by his own eyebrows.
And then a parched Marco Rubio took a not-so-subtle sip of water, eyes still piercing into the camera. Forget that he had delivered the first-ever bilingual rebuttal, drowned out by Rubio and his infamous water bottle.
Rubio quickly bounced back from that moment, raising more than $100,000 through his PAC by selling “RUBIO” branded water bottles. And his political fortunes are still fairly intact.
And superstitious politicos beware.
Virigina Gov. Bob McDonnell gave a rousing response straight from the Virginia state legislature in 2010. Five years later, and he’s about to start a two-year stint in federal prison over corruption charges.
Even last year’s speaker, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was accused by a former staffer of ethics violations, though that investigation died out pretty quickly.
Maybe it’s just that today’s Republicans are a sorry bunch of losers channeling the Koch brothers?
Speaking of losers, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise had the nerve to discuss Martin Luther King’s legacy yesterday. From The Hill: Scalise praises MLK amid controversies.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Monday praised the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. amid controversy over his speech to a white supremacist group while he served as a Louisiana state legislator…
“As we reflect upon the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., today, we also recognize how our nation has been strengthened by his legacy,” Scalise said in a statement.
“Dr. King challenged our country to fulfill the promises of liberty, equality, and justice prescribed in the founding of our great nation. Leading by example, he stressed the teachings of tolerance, service, and love, regardless of race, color, or creed. Today, his writings and speeches continue to empower and inspire those who seek liberty, equality, and justice,” Scalise continued.
Scalise made no mention of any events he planned to attend to commemorate the holiday.
Scalise’s comments stood out, however, given that the holiday coincides with multiple race-related controversies over his career prior to entering Congress.
For one, Scalise opposed making King’s birthday a state holiday in 2004 while he served in the Louisiana Legislature, as well as making it a school holiday in 1999.
The Hill also reported last week that Scalise voted against a resolution in the Louisiana Legislature apologizing for slavery. He later supported a version that only expressed “regret” for slavery.
“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise said, according to minutes of a 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting obtained by The Hill. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”
And, as reported in late December, Scalise in 2002 spoke before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Why is this man still serving as House Majority Whip?
Yesterday Think Progress noted that Scalise isn’t the only opponent the Martin Luther King holiday who still remains in power.
After King’s assassination in 1968, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the first Congressional legislation to create a federal Martin Luther King Day holiday. In the years that followed, Congress held congressional hearings during which hostile witnesses said “violence was exactly what [King] wanted,” and that King formed a “common front” with the “virulently racist Nation of Islam.”
More than 15 years later, Congress finally enacted such a law. The bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan, passed in the Senate on a 78-22 vote and in the House of Representatives by a 338 to 90 margin. The most vocal opponents included the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who mounted a 16-day filibuster of the proposal and smeared King as a Communist.
Voting with Helms against the King holiday were four men who remain in the Senate today: Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). Shelby and McCain were in the House at the time. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) also voted against the proposal. McCain apologized in 2008 for being too slow “to give greatness its due,” and Hatch wrote in 2007 that the vote was “one of the worst decisions” he has made as a senator.
Read more of the sorry history of the MLK holiday at the link.
Jezebel had a fascinating, though heartbreaking, story by Anna Merlen about the archaeological excavation of the graves of young boys at the Dozier School in Florida. We’ve written about this story here in the past. Merlen interviewed Dr. Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, one of the leaders of the project.
The Dozier School was located in the tiny town of Marianna, West of Tallahassee and thirty minutes or so from the Georgia line. It opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and despite years of reports of serious abuse and mistreatment, it remained open for over 100 years.At least 98 people died there over the years, two staff members and 96 boys aged six to 18. Men who were once Dozier residents recounted brutal beatings they received in the White House, a small outbuilding on the school grounds whose walls remain spattered with what looks like blood. More than one survivor has called the building “a torture chamber.”
A group of men who were sent to the school in the 1950s and ’60s have banded together to tell their stories: they call themselves the White House Boys. The Tampa Bay Times has done the best coverage of the Dozier School, including an investigation in 2009 that uncovered squalid conditions, staff neglect and mistreatment from 1900 to the present day, depicting the school, as they put it, as “a place of abuse and neglect, of falsified records, bloody noses and broken bones.” [….]
Dr. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist, an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a leader of the team excavating Dozier. (Before coming to USF, she worked as the Chief Anthropologist at the Hague, analyzing mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia.) Along with two colleagues (Antoinette Jackson and Christian Wells) and a crew of graduate students, Kimmerle has been excavating Boot Hill, the burial ground at Dozier, as well as the surrounding area and trying, through DNA testing, to return the boys’ remains to their families for a proper burial.
In January of 2014, the team exhumed 55 bodies—five more than they expected to find, 24 more than official records said were buried there. There are still many questions: how many boys lie buried under the Dozier grounds, their bodies slowly entwining with the roots of the mulberry trees around them? How did they die? And who do we hold accountable for the 100 years of suffering the Dozier school inflicted?
The interview is extremely interesting and informative. I highly recommend it.
Here’s another sad Florida story that I’ve been following. Two young sisters were arrested and charged with murder after the older girl shot and killed her 16-year-old brother on January 5.
According to the initial incident report, the girls’ father is a truck driver and their parents left them alone with their brother and a 3-year-old sister while the mother accompanied the father on a trip. The 15-year-old told police that on the day of the shooting, her brother locked her in a room with just a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.
According to police, she said that while her brother slept, her younger sister helped her escape the room and the 15-year-old went outside and used a knife to cut the foam around the window air conditioning unit in the window of her parents’ locked bedroom. In the bedroom, she told police, she found a handgun, loaded it, and then went into the living room where her brother was sleeping and shot him.
The arrest report says the girls then packed some things, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby Dollar Store, where they called a friend, who later called police. The girls told them that the 15-year-old was routinely locked in the room her brother had kept her in.
The sisters’ parents were arrested and charged with child neglect and according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office are still behind bars. According to their arrest report, the mother told police the 15-year-old was locked in the room about four times a week, and the father said the longest she was locked up was 20 days. In a search of the house, police found notes written by the parents asking the girl to explain why she should be let out of the room.
It turned out that there was a long history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in this family. The older girl had reported that her uncle was abusing her, and he is now serving a life sentence for the crimes. In addition, the mother had caught the brother raping the 1-year old, and had told authorities, but nothing was done about it.
Police say the girls will be tried as juveniles for second degree murder. Shouldn’t this killing be viewed as self-defense though? This case has also exposed a problem with laws about incest. Acccording to CBS News, Experts: Fla. sibling shooting exposes “incest loophole.”
In 2010, the children’s aunt went to police when she found a memory stick belonging to her husband with video of him sexually molesting the oldest sister. The uncle was eventually convicted and is serving life in prison.
And the abuse did not stop there. The family began locking the girl in a room – once for 20 days – and reportedly pulled her from school due to “behavioral issues.” And among the reports released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is a heavily redacted document that suggests that in 2011, when the older sister would have been 11 or 12, her mother found the girl and her brother having sex in the house. But, according to the incident report, “the case was closed as unfounded and no criminal acts were disclosed.”
“We treat sexual abuse of children in the family as a social and psychological problem and not as a crime – and it is a crime,” says Grier Weeks, the executive director of the National Association to Protect Children.
Incest is still treated more lightly by law enforcement in most states in the U.S.
According to Daphne Young of Child Help, a non-profit organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, 68 percent of child sex abuse victims are abused by a family member. Jennifer Marsh of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that 40 percent of the people who call the National Sex Abuse hotline say incest is their primary or secondary reason for seeking help.
And yet, perpetrators who sexually abuse family members can be subject to lower penalties than they would be had they assaulted a neighbor or stranger. In Washington State, for example, the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative Law allows an offender to receive a lighter sentence if he or she had “an established relationship with, or connection to, the victim.”
Weeks calls this “the incest loophole,” and finds it mind-boggling: “The toll on a child [abused by a family member] is devastating. She was not protected by the very people who should have loved and protected her.”
Read more at the link.
This post has gotten way too long, so I’ll just leave you with a recommendation to read a long piece at The NY Review of Books on the Citizens United decision: The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake, by David Cole.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
Already starting the second week of 2015 and things just aren’t looking like it is going to be a good year. (I am talking about the crap in Congress and so forth. Which it appears payback is a bitch: Payback? Two GOP Boehner foes kicked off House committee | Washington Watch | McClatchy DC)
So today the links are going to focus on main news items and a few history links.
The images you see are vintage magazine covers from the month of January…some may spark a memory or two…
Let’s start with the news that will be blasted all over the MSM this morning:
“The tail has been found,” Bambang Soelistyo, chief of the rescue agency, known as BASARNAS, told reporters at a news conference, adding that tail numbers were visible on wreckage. Finding the tail is significant because it may contain the plane’s voice and data recorders, or black boxes. Soelistyo said no black boxes have yet been found.
Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, said on Twitter Wednesday that “if right part of tail section then the black box should be there.”
“We need to find all parts soon so we can find all out (sic) guests to ease the pain of our families,” Fernandes said. “That still is our priority.”
They even have pictures of the tail from underwater:
From what the pictures show, it looks like the plane is upside-down.
According to the news in Australia, via the Sydney Morning Herald:
The discovery came within what’s now known as the “second additional area” — a search zone to the west of the original focus area, because strong underwater currents have been sweeping wreckage westwards.
Mr Soelistyo said divers would now be deployed to try to recover the bodies that his agency, Basarnas, is sure are trapped in the wreckage.
A number of bodies were found overnight, bringing the total of those recovered to 40 out of a flight with 162 passengers and crew.
As bodies floating free in the ocean are decaying fast, authorities hope most of the rest of the victims will be capable of being recovered from the four or more large pieces of wreckage believed to be on the ocean floor.
Basarnas and the Indonesian National Transport Safety Committee were now trying to find the black box using the pinger locator.
It also looks like there is some strange suspensions and such taking place. Air Asia is a airline that advertises flights for the average person…with a slogan of “now everyone can fly”…meaning they are not your high dollar air travel carrier. You can read more about their launch into Indonesia/Malaysia with budget flights here Air Asia X to launch UK-Malaysia flights – Telegraph, it is a link to an article from 2008.
The breakthrough came as the government’s crackdown on what it sees as unauthorised flights continues, carrying grave risk for AirAsia’s reputation in Indonesia.
More airport and flight approval officials were suspended for allowing the doomed flight to leave Surabaya on a day (Sunday) that it was not authorised to fly the Singapore route.
The feared Corruption Eradication Commission, KPK, has been deployed to see if there was any corruption involved in that process.
But the government appears to have pulled back on its heavy-handed treatment of domestic AirAsia flight routes.
On Tuesday, airport officials announced that they had banned AirAsia from flying five of its key Indonesian domestic services out of Surabaya airport, including three from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, one to Bali and one to regional centre Bandung.
But the general manager of the airport authority, Trikor Hardjo, said that, after the flights were cancelled, some more negotiations led to the suspension being revoked.
“The airline has already been asked for changes, and the permit was just issued for all of those flights,” Mr Trikor said.
The crackdown, followed by the backdown, seems to the be result of over-zealous regulation in an environment that is increasingly unfriendly and difficult for commercial operators in the wake of the crash.
A spokesman for the Transport Ministry, JA Barata, tried to clear up the confusion: “Those whose flying schedule is not in accordance with their permit must be suspended, but if the changes are only about flying time or hour, they should not be suspended,” he told Fairfax Media.
“The respective airlines can simply apply for new flying time to the respective division at Transportation Ministry. This is a regular practice and it is very simply done.”
More on the banned flights here: AirAsia banned from key routes amid government crackdown
AirAsia has been banned from flying five of its key Indonesian domestic services out of Surabaya airport as part of a government crackdown on previously unenforced regulations in the wake of the crash of flight QZ8501.
The bans on the flights – three from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, one to Bali and one to regional centre Bandung – will deal another blow to the Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, which had already been suspended from the Surabaya-Singapore route entirely.It’s part of a broader government crackdown on lax administration of flight permits from Surabaya Airport. The fast-growing Indonesian-owned low cost carrier Lion Air has been stopped from flying nine of its weekly services, and smaller aircraft Trigana and KalStar have also been affected.
The general manager of Indonesia’s airport authority, Trikor Hardjo, said he had made the decision because the airlines had changed aspects of their scheduling and so lacked permits to fly some services. He told news portal Detik.com he had, “tightened the rules of the game”.
But the sudden move will cast Indonesia’s teeming aviation industry into disarray, and is likely to mean long delays for passengers as they are transferred to other flights.
The Indonesian government’s regulation of its burgeoning airline industry has been judged one of the worst in the world. The International Civil Aviation Organisation ranks its ability to administer aviation as worse than that in Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
There was another shooting last night, this time at a VA hospital in Texas: Gunman kills doctor, then himself, at VA hospital in El Paso, Texas – CNN.com
One person died Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at the El Paso VA Health Care System in Texas, Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty told reporters.
“The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe. This is an active crime scene, and the shooting incident is under investigation,” he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement saying it was saddened by what happened.
“We will continue to cooperate fully with military and civilian authorities at Beaumont Army Medical Center. The safety and continued care of our Veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation,” the statement read.
A Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a doctor was shot by a gunman, who later died from a self-inflicted wound.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear. The VA facility will be closed Wednesday.
Of course this violence is in addition to the bomb at the NAACP office in Colorado, Suspect sought after blast near Colorado Springs NAACP office | Al Jazeera America
Authorities are looking for a man who may have information about an explosion set off near the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.
The Tuesday blast outside a barbershop next door to the group’s building caused no injuries, police said. There was only minor damage to the site which is which is about an hour south of Denver.
FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders says an explosive was detonated against the building, but it’s too soon to know whether it was aimed at the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
She says investigators are looking for a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving a dirty pickup truck.
In other depressing news: Food stamp benefit cut may force a million people into ‘serious hardship’ | Al Jazeera America
I won’t quote that one, you can go and read the thing for yourself…
Now for a few history links, these are from the History News Network website:
Now that the Republican Party―the conservative voice in mainstream U.S. electoral politics―has attained the most thoroughgoing control of Congress that it has enjoyed since 1928, it’s an appropriate time to take a good look at modern conservatism.
Conservatives have performed some useful services for Americans over the course of U.S. history. Alexander Hamilton placed the nation’s financial credit on a much firmer basis during the late eighteenth century. Determined to make knowledge available to all Americans, Andrew Carnegie funded the development of the free U.S. public library system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the early twentieth century, Elihu Root and other conservatives played key roles in the establishment of international law. Also, in the mid-twentieth century, Robert Taft staunchly denounced the peacetime military draft, arguing that it smacked of a totalitarian state.
But, increasingly, modern American conservatism resembles a giant wrecking ball, powered by hate-spewing demagogues to undermine or destroy long-cherished institutions, from the U.S. Post Office (established by Benjamin Franklin in 1775 and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution) to minimum wage laws (which began to appear on the state level in the early twentieth century). Sadly, the rhetoric of modern conservatism―focused on small government, free enterprise, and individual liberty―seems ever more divorced from its behavior. Indeed, conservatism’s rhetoric and its behavior are often quite contradictory.
Is this allegation fair? There certainly seem to be plenty of discrepancies between words and deeds, and conservatives should be asked to explain them. For example:
Go to link and read the 10 questions…
Peter Stearns is a Professor of History and Provost Emeritus at George Mason University. He served as Provost from 2000-2014. This article was the basis for a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York in January.
I offer here some brief comments on shame, its history, and opportunities in the history of emotion. I’ve been concerned, despite the impressive flurry of work on emotion by historians at major centers that have sprung up in several countries, that we’ve not maintained adequate connections with the other fields that dominate research on emotion, notably psychology and sociology.
We know one key thing about shame and history, thanks particularly to work by John Demos some decades ago. Widely displayed in colonial America, complete with public stocks, it declined in popularity by the mid-nineteenth century. Recent Googlebooks data confirm this, by the way. But after this core discovery, historians have been silent on the emotion.
Not so social scientists, who have been pouring out impressive amounts of work on current patterns of shame, and particularly the emotion’s harmful effects. Whether we’re talking about prisoners, children, or fat people, shame targeting simply makes things worse, causing resentment and sometimes counterproductive reactions.
You know what to do, right?
This month, with little fanfare, Palomares begins its 50th year as “the most radioactive town in Europe.” If you’ve heard of Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island but are unfamiliar with Palomares, you might wonder why. All appear in Time’s top-ten list of the world’s “worst nuclear disasters.” Palomares moreover has been called the worst nuclear weapons accident in history. So why do so few people outside Spain know about it?
So what exactly happened? On 17 January 1966, a US Air Force B-52 collided with its refueling plane, killing seven airmen and dropping four hydrogen bombs. Conventional explosives in two detonated on impact with the earth, blowing them to bits and scattering radioactive plutonium—a mutagen and carcinogen—over the farming town of Palomares, population 2000.
English-language journalists, though late on the scene, rushed their books into print, replicating oversights of the rushed cleanup operation and circulating the myth of a single lost bomb. Pioneering female foreign correspondent Flora Lewis screamed One of Our H-Bombs is Missing, borrowing a title from 50s Red Scare pulp fiction. Likewise demonstrating their national allegiances, British reporter Christopher Morris lamented The Day They Lost the H-Bomb and American science writer Barbara Moran, four decades later, decried The Day We Lost the H-Bomb.
Only New York Times correspondent Tad Szulc pluralized the threat with The Bombs of Palomares. He further measured the relative importance of events. “Although the long spectacular search” for the harmless fourth bomb—at the bottom of the Med for eighty days—“was to overshadow the village’s radioactivity problem in [U.S.] public opinion, the contamination was in reality the most significant” calamity.
So what was of greatest significance in early 1966? In addition to the seven airmen, plus eight more killed in a Palomares supply plane crash, people in Palomares suffered—and still suffer—potentially fatal radioactive exposures. At the time, no was evacuated; no one was officially informed for six weeks. Even then, U.S. Ambassador Angier Duke told the international press corps an unconscionable lie: “This area has gone through no public health hazard of any kind, and no trace whatsoever of radioactivity has ever been found.” Why then were nearly 5000 barrels of hot soil and crops shipped away for burial in South Carolina? Why today is plutonium found throughout the food chain in Palomares? Why is radioactivity evident downwind, in neighboring Villaricos?
See, you need to go and read the rest of those article to find the answers to the questions.
I thought this was another interesting history link for you this morning: Nazi super cows: British farmer forced to destroy half his murderous herd of bio-engineered Heck cows after they try to kill staff – Environment – The Independent
Hey, remember that time capsule that was found in Boston a couple of weeks ago? Time capsule that was in Massachusetts State House is opened – Metro – The Boston Globe
Using a porcupine’s quill, several small pieces of paper, a strip of polyester film, and a small metal pick that resembled a dental tool, Museum of Fine Arts conservator Pam Hatchfield carefully plucked history from a box Tuesday night.
The box was a time capsule, many of its items first placed beneath the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House 220 years ago to mark the start of the building’s construction. The history came in many forms.
There were five neatly folded newspapers, a collection of 23 coins dating as far back as 1652, a medal depicting George Washington, a replica of Colonial records, and a silver plate commemorating the erection of the new State House.
One of the coins in the box, a Pine Tree Shilling, was printed in 1652 for the use of Massachusetts’ colonists, without the knowledge of the British monarchy. Writing about the shilling, historian Mark Peterson tells the story of the colonists’ monetary defiance, which initially went unpunished during the king-less time of Oliver Cromwell. With the Restoration in 1660, Peterson writes, Charles II “demanded a reckoning of the colony’s conduct.” In a “dexterous act of verbal tribute,” the colony’s representative convinced the king that the pine was, instead, a royal oak, “the emblem of the oak which preserved his majesty’s life.” For the moment, Peterson adds, “the bluff succeeded.” Revere and Adams may have chosen to include the shilling as a token of the colony’s early independence.
From history to science:
Some children are more sensitive to their environments, for better and for worse. Now researchers have identified a gene variant that may serve as a marker for these children, who are among society’s most vulnerable. The study found that children from high-risk backgrounds who carried a common gene variant were very likely to develop serious problems as adults, but were also more responsive to treatment.
One of eight new planets spied in distant solar systems has usurped the title of “most Earth-like alien world”, astronomers have said.
All eight were picked out by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, taking its tally of such “exoplanets” past 1,000.
But only three sit safely within the “habitable zone” of their host star – and one in particular is rocky, like Earth, as well as only slightly warmer.
The find was revealed at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, now in its fifth year of seeking out the shadows of planets circling other stars, has spotted hundreds, and more and more of these other worlds look a lot like Earth — rocky balls only slightly larger than our own home, that with the right doses of starlight and water could turn out to be veritable gardens of microbial Eden.
As the ranks of these planets grow, astronomers are planning the next step in the quest to end cosmic loneliness: gauging which hold the greatest promise for life and what tools will be needed to learn about them.
HAVANA — The signs of the times speak loudly in Cuba, sometimes through their silence.
A 17-hour drive across the heart of the island in a battered burgundy and gray 1956 Ford Fairlane included long stretches in which there was surprisingly little ideology on display, few of the billboards that once trumpeted revolutionary slogans.
“Florida advances through its own effort,” said a sign in the town of that name.
“Quality is respect for the people,” said another.
Another said simply, “Work hard!” — a notion stripped of the ideological imperative that used to complete the thought with phrases like “to defeat imperialism” or “to build socialism.”
Dispatched to Cuba in December after the surprise announcement by President Obama that he would renew full diplomatic relations, I set off on a road trip from Havana, near the west end of the island, to Guantánamo, at the east end.
The mileage chart on my map said the distance was 565 miles. It felt a lot longer sitting on the cream-colored, quilted vinyl seat of the Ford, which had lost a lot of its spring in the years since Fidel Castro swept into power.
The vintage Ford was not part of the original plan.
I think you will enjoy that long read. Pictures too at the link…
Hope everyone stays warm, we are very cold today in Banjoville. The low tonight is 7… So, what are you all reading about today?
Good Morning All
I had completely forgot today was Sunday, and since my laptop is still giving problems…and my new one is not being delivered until Monday, this post is going to be brief.
Images will be from this blog…discarding images, if you have some time go and check that site out.I love the crossed eyes on the knight that is getting hit with the flaming fart…and the sad face on the bonnacon, like he is sorry but he can’t help it…
Now the links:
Weather was the “triggering factor” in the crash of AirAsia flight 8501 with icing likely causing engine damage, Indonesia’s meteorological agency said on Sunday, as bad weather continued to hinder rescue efforts.
The Airbus A320-200 crashed into the Java Sea a week ago carrying 162 people from Indonesia’s second city Surabaya to Singapore, and relief workers are hunting for the “black box” flight data recorders to determine the cause of the crash.
The search teams from several countries including the United States and Russia recovered another body on Sunday, bringing the total to 31.
They also found another major part of the aircraft to add to the four discovered on Saturday but rough seas again forced them to abandon their efforts early.
In other aviation news: Saudi national airline may introduce gender segregation on its flights — RT News
You may remember I linked to a story recently about the delays caused by certain Orthodox Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women passengers on flights out of New York. This is on the other side of the coin…I mean religious coin, if you get what I am saying.
Saudi Arabia’s national airline carrier is planning to introduce gender segregation aboard its flights following complaints from passengers who refused to have random males seated next to their wives, the Kingdom’s media report.
Airline company Saudia will order its staff to keep men and women separated onboard, unless they are close relatives, the Emirates247 news website reported.
Meanwhile, sticking with the Mideast…North Africa a little longer:
Have you seen this? Egypt warned Amal Clooney she risked arrest | World news | The Guardian
More on this from Juan Cole: Why Egypt’s Threat to Arrest Amal Clooney will hurt its Economy | Informed Comment
Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian reported on Friday that Amal Clooney was threatened with jail by Egyptian authorities last February if she released a report in Cairo on flaws in the Egyptian judiciary that had been commissioned by the International Bar Association. The report is available on the Web here.
Significant elements of the Egyptian judiciary are obviously arbitrary, conspiratorial to the point of paranoia, and a complete mess, as demonstrated by the opposite verdicts reached in the two cases against former dictator Hosni Mubarak; in the mass executions of Muslim Brothers ordered by a notorious provincial hanging judge; by the jailing of Aljazeera and other journalists for reporting the news; and by the jailing of protesters for protesting (the hero of 2011, Ahmad Maher of the April 6 Youth, among many others, is in jail for another two years).
Ms. Clooney and her colleagues wrote early last year,
“Three distinct prosecutorial trends are discernible. First, under the short period of military rule that followed the 2011 revolution, more civilians were prosecuted for ‘crimes’ against the military – such as the crime of ‘insulting the military’ – than had ever been prosecuted during 30 years of Mubarak rule. Secondly, under Morsi’s Brotherhood presidency, those who insulted Islam or insulted the President himself were targeted. According to some sources, the number of prosecutions brought for ‘insulting the president’ in the Morsi period exceeded the number of such prosecutions brought over three decades under Mubarak and the number of persons who were sentenced to imprisonment for insulting Islam also increased dramatically. Finally, in the post-Morsi era during the second half of 2013, a startling number of prosecutions were initiated against Brotherhood figures, including the former President himself, the Brotherhood’s entire senior leadership and thousands of others.
This record of selective prosecutions undermines the potential for a peaceful transition and reconciliation between communities in Egypt, as well as the right to freedom of expression in a new democracy. It is therefore suggested that a transitional justice process be put in place, ideally with international involvement to guarantee independence and impartiality. This would honour the rights of the many victims of serious crimes that have been committed in Egypt and combat impunity for government abuses.”
So she probably wasn’t surprised when they threatened to prosecute her, too.
One reason all this matters, beyond the thuggish threats of arbitrary imprisonment of people for thinking independently, is that Egypt’s judiciary is an obstacle to the country attracting foreign investment.
More at the link.
To think that Clooney’s wife may get more attention then him? hmmmm
Not that I think it is, as the title of this article puts it: The End of Men – Atlantic Mobile
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
Meh, you go and read the article and take it for what it is…it is a long winded piece of…well, it was written back in 2010, I guess the Atlantic felt the time had come to republish it? I don’t know but they had it up at their site as if it was a recent post. The point is, things have gotten worse for women and I feel it ain’t going to get better any time soon.
More than twenty years have passed, but Jonathan Huston still vividly remembers one specific day during his stint as editor of a New Hampshire weekly.
[I was] writing a series on the titans of trash — about racketeering by the nation’s two largest garbage haulers. A lawyer came to my office one day to convey a warning about my latest investigative reporting.
“Jonathan, I hope I don’t open up the pages of the Union Leader one day,” he said, “to read that the editor of a certain weekly newspaper got into his car, turned over the ignition, and got blown sky high.”
“That shall not happen,” I said.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I don’t own a car.”
To some extent the specter of violent death hangs over us all, lurking at the edge of consciousness most of the time, perhaps brought into focus by a mass shooting in which victims remind us of our children or friends, or of ourselves. Or maybe we are shaken by a local story about domestic violence, a murder suicide, a drive by, or road rage turned lethal.
For women in particular, the threat never completely disappears. A cartoon that made its way around Facebook underscores the point. On one side a thought bubble above a male figure reads, “What if she gave me a fake number?” On the other, a bubble above a female says, “What if he rapes and kills me?”
Mercifully, for most of us most of the time, the risk of violence seems small and distant. Even so, it can shape how we live. It can make us hesitate to say no. Or yes. It can make us hesitate to stay home alone. Or go out at night.
Or speak our minds.
Fear has the power to paralyze and silence even strong, determined people, which is why threats of violence are such a potent, common, and toxic presence in political discourse. Consequently, it is a wonder, and a gift to us all, when engaged citizens like Jonathan Huston refuse to be silenced.
Threats of violence can be explicit or implied, verbal or behavioral. They can target a single individual like the president, or a class of individuals, like queers. And the intimidation can take many forms: the mob lawyer’s casual comment about a car bomb; an assault weapon slung over a shoulder in a Texas restaurant; a Louisiana law forcing abortion providers to publish their names, addresses and photos; the body of a lynch or rape victim swaying from a tree.
As a psychologist turned writer, I found myself wanting to understand more about what life is like for activists who find themselves living—to borrow a biblical phrase—in the valley of the shadow of death. I wanted to understand also why some of them, instead of backing down decide to lean in. So, I started asking around. One of the first things I learned was how surprisingly many people within two degrees of separation from my own life had dealt with threats of violence at one time or another. The second thing—less surprising—was that staying centered and engaged in the face of even threatening innuendo is far from easy.
Read the rest at the link.
In strange as fuck news: Granite City man finds out what’s been hidden in his arm for 51 years : News
Uh, here’s the kicker…it was a piece of a car, a 1963 Thunderbird turn signal that got stuck in there from an accident years ago.
Anyway, there is a good article however over at the Atlantic about my home state of Georgia: What’s Wrong With Georgia? – Atlantic Mobile
Throughout the economic downturn and subsequent recovery, there have been some usual suspects when it comes to the most pitiful state in monthly unemployment figures.
For awhile, Michigan took the prize for highest unemployment rate in the country, until Nevada knocked it off its perch in May of 2010. Nevada then held the title for most of the next three years, sometimes sharing the honor with California, until it ceded the top (more accurately, the bottom) spot to Rhode Island in December 2013.
But now, as the economy picks up steam, and consumer sentiment rises to its highest levels since 2007, a new state keeps appearing at the top of the unemployment list. Georgia, home to Fortune 500 heavyweights such as Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola, had the highest unemployment rate in the nation in August, September, and October. With a November rate of 7.2 percent, the state was narrowly edged out by Mississippi’s 7.3 percent (December statistics won’t come out until mid-January).
This may seem surprising, since Georgia was named the best state to do business in both 2014 and 2013 by Site Selection magazine, largely because of its workforce-training program and low tax rates. Nathan Deal, the state’s GOP governor, handily won reelection in November against Jimmy Carter’s grandson by speaking about Georgia as a job magnet.
But those who follow the state’s economy say the state’s troubling economic figures are directly related to Georgia’s attempts to paint itself as a good state for corporations.
“This is what a state looks like when you have a hands-off, laissez-faire approach to the economy,” said Michael Wald, a former Bureau of Labor Statistics economist in Atlanta. “Georgia is basically a low-wage, low-tax, low-service state, that’s the approach they’ve been taking for a very long time.”
I found this interesting, Cannonfire-Get the government off our tops!
Are they serious? Oklahoma may soon have a law banning hoodies in public. Apparently, this new piece of legilsation is an extension of an old law against wearing a hood during the commission of a crime — a measure originally designed to make life inconvenient for the KKK.
This is ridiculous. I used to wear a hoodie, during my first winter on the east coast. When you’re a shaven-headed guy with no scarf, a hoodie can be a lifesaver. (My ears get cold, even in summer.) Eventually, I acquired some classier means of staying warm — tuques, hats, scarves, earmuffs, long winter coats.
But dammit, I’ll wear a hoodie if I want to. It’s my right. Besides, they offer cheap warmth.
Interestingly, this measure is taking hold in Oklahoma, which is nobody’s idea of a blue state. How can the Republicans blame government intrusiveness on the Dems?
How the hell can the Republicans pass shit like this continuously, not to mention the crap they pull with women’s right to choose…and still say they are against government interference? We are in for a shitstorm of GOP legislative fuckturds…I am telling you!
Oh, and since I brought up the subject of fuckturds: 2014 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: BOB McCULLOCH | Gin and Tacos
(Editor’s note: The Lieberman Award is given annually to the worst example of a human being over a twelve month period. Click the tag at the end of the post to review past winners.)
Gin and Tacos and its parent company, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, hold very high standards with respect to the final product you see published here four or five times per week. When we say someone is an asshole, we want you the reader to know that we have done our homework and vetted the subject thoroughly. We aren’t going to give you people who are just kind of an asshole. You can rest assured that when we look back at a year and say “This person was an asshole of such magnitude that he defined 2014 with how rotten he is at being human,” the honor is richly deserved and well earned.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch is everything wrong with America today, far more so than any cigar stealing Thug or even any trigger happy police officer could ever be. He is old, dying, white America incarnate, struggling mightily to control a country it is no longer capable of understanding and not even willing to try.
Bob McCulloch is every gun-hoarding authoritarian personality type who sees a threat in everything and everyone that does not look and behave like himself. Bob McCulloch is the America that is on its way being demographically irrelevant and is attempting to maintain a position of superiority by dominating the institutions of state power to such an extent that their privileges can never be taken away. You know, like white people did in Apartheid-era South Africa.
Bob McCulloch is your uncle who bitches constantly about big government and taxes while every paycheck he has collected in his life has been from the public teat. He is the public’s mental caricature of an incompetent, corrupt civil servant, so protected and insulated from the repercussions of his professional actions that he is unwilling even to fake giving a shit if you can see how corrupt he is. Bob McCulloch is the old, bitter white people that dot major cities throughout the Rust Belt; everyone young and financially able has left and now he reigns over a poor, crumbling, crime-ridden corpse of a city and it makes him so bitter and angry, despite his job security and material comfort, that all he can do to make himself feel a little better is lash out at people he considers a rung (or two) beneath him on the social ladder.
You need to go read the rest. Y’all know I post links regularly from Gin and Tacos, be sure to check this one out.
There is a series going on now at the National Geographic: On the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ Trail, the Dust Bowl Still Resonates
Retracing the route Steinbeck described in his classic novel 75 years ago, a family finds parallels between today and the ‘Dirty Thirties.’ This is the first of three parts.
“The highway became their home and movement their medium of expression. Little by little they settled into the new life.” —The Grapes of Wrath
In another nostalgic look, this time cartoons: Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Dot and the Line
The 1950s were arguably the most successful decade of animator/director/overall creative genius Chuck Jones’ career: he directed almost two dozen cartoons for the Warner Bros. studio during that period. Eight of these cartoons would eventually be voted to the Jerry Beck-curated 50 Greatest Cartoons list in 1994; four of them–What’s Opera, Doc; Duck Amuck; Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century; and One Froggy Evening–appear in the top five of that list. In fact, Jones is the most-represented animator on the list–with ten total entries, his work comprises a full TWENTY PERCENT of what is considered the “best” animation of all time.
No other artist comes close.
Jones was undoubtedly the biggest asset to the Warner Bros. animation empire, and he was locked into an exclusive contract with the studio. But in the early 1960s, Jones collaborated with animators from UPA to produce the feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), which he co-wrote with his wife, Dorothy. Ironically, Warner Bros. won the distribution rights for the film; when Jones’ role in its production was discovered, his now-violated contract with the studio was terminated in 1962. The Warner Bros. animation department was shut down the following year.
Jones subsequently formed his own animation studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions, and rehired his old unit from Warner Bros. (which had been disbanded after Jones was fired). The studio was contracted to create new cartoons for the Tom and Jerry series for MGM; two years later, Jones’ studio was purchased outright by MGM and renamed MGM Animation/Visual Arts. All in all, Jones produced nearly three dozen Tom and Jerry shorts throughout the 1960s.
But his time wasn’t completely consumed by the antics of the cat and mouse; he also worked on several other projects for the studio, one of which–The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1965)–won Jones his only competitive Academy Award as a producer.
The Dot and the Line, as its full title indicates, tells of the romance between a dilettante dot and the straight line that loves her. While the dot is initially enamored of a “wild and unkempt squiggle” (whose wildness is underscored by a clamorous rock-and-roll tune that sounds every time it is onscreen), the “stiff as a board” straight line tries to adapt himself into something else in order to entice the dot back to his side. After struggling a long time, the line finally learns to form himself into an angle, which then allows him to form an unending series of increasingly complex shapes that, in the end, are much more appealing to the dot than the “chaos” presented by the squiggle. The cartoon concludes with the tongue-in-cheek moral: “To the vector belong the spoils.”
Read more about “The Dot and the Line” at the link and you can also see the full video of the cartoon here:
And since this post has been illustrated with doodles and drawings from Medieval manuscripts: New Images on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts – Medieval manuscripts blog
Exciting news for those of our readers who might want to search for an image of a 13th-century devil with horns, an English drawing of a horse from the 10th century, rain over the Italian countryside, severed limbs or even Job afflicted with boils. More than 200 new images are now available online in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. For those who have not yet used this catalogue, it has an advanced search page which allows you to search for key words combined with place of origin, date range and many other criteria: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/search2.asp.
Over 4000 illuminated manuscripts from 800 to 1800 have been catalogued to date and we have now added a new selection with images and descriptions that were not previously available online, mostly from the Additionals series.
I bet you can tell from the images below…the search keyword was “dwarf.”
Finally, bits of childhood keep washing up on the shores of beaches…BBC News – Mapped: The beaches where Lego washes up
The story of millions of Lego pieces washing up on beaches attracted huge interest when first told by the Magazine. The list of places where the toys have been spotted is still growing.
Beachcomber Tracey Williams has been picking up Lego along the Cornish coastline ever since a container spill dumped millions of the toy pieces into the sea in 1997.
Since the curious tale was reported by the Magazine, dozens of people have contacted Williams to say they, too, have found parts of the much-loved toy scattered on shores.
They mostly got in touch via the Facebook page she set up about the drifting toy pieces from various Lego sets, many of which were nautical-themed.
Most of the people who’ve contacted her found Lego around Cornwall, she says. “From what I’ve been told, Perranporth is a hotspot for brooms, and the Lizard seems to be a hotspot for octopuses.”
Brighton, East Sussex, some 300 miles away, is the furthest confirmed report she has received to the east along England’s southern coastline. But some of the sightings have come from much further afield.
Nearly 4.8 million Lego toy parts fell overboard from the Tokio Express container ship in a storm off Land’s End on 13 February 1997.
Williams says the pieces which now drift up on an “almost daily basis” in numerous locations are flippers, spear guns, seagrass, scuba tanks and life preservers.
There is a breakdown of parts that were lost and other pictures at the link…
Well, have a
Finally we have some good news to discuss, if Republicans can somehow be prevented from ruining it. The U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries after 50 years of hostilities and sanctions. In celebration of this long-overdue step forward, I’m going to illustrate this post with the work of Cuban artists. You can read about the above painting of Marilyn Monroe superimposed on a photo of Che Guevara and the artist Adrian Rumbaut at the Cuban Art blog. Here’s a bit of background:
In the work, Adrian Rumbaut has reproduced Alberto Korda’s famous 1960 photograph of Che Guevara, and he inserts his vision of American Richard Avedon’s iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe as well. In the letters on the side of the painting, Rumbaut gives credit to both Korda and Avedon for their images, and provides the date of his painting.
Interestingly, Korda had worked as a fashion photographer as a young man, and he wanted very much to be the Richard Avedon of Cuba. He photographed the “beautiful people” of the Batista era before the revolution, and models lined up in front of his studio to have their picture taken. Taken by surprise by the “triumph of the revolution” in 1959, he worked subsequently with Raul Corrales, Castro’s official photographer, to capture the excitement of the revolution. In his image of Che, something survives of his earlier experience with beautiful women.
Korda’s image of Che — snapped in 1960 and also known as Guerrillero Heroico — has been repeatedly reproduced worldwide, serving as both a symbol of protest and as a fashion accessory.
The iconic photo has taken on increasingly exotic forms, each created with different intentions and evoking varied responses. Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Madonna, and Princess Diana have all had their pictures adapted and inserted under Che’s familiar red star beret. It isn’t an exaggeration to note that Che the icon has overtaken Che the revolutionary.
The original “Che” photograph was taken at a dangerous moment, a time when the new revolutionary government was preparing for imminent US invasion. It was at the start of the Cuban Revolution’s second year, and Castro’s government had ordered a boatload of weapons and ammunition — mostly rifles and grenades — from Belgium. The armaments were loaded onto a French ship, La Coubre which, unfortunately, exploded upon arrival in Havana Harbor in March 1960. The crew and 75 Cuban dockers were killed. More than 200 were injured.
Here’s a wonderful example of Cuban street art that I found at a Cuban travel site, Insight Cuba.
See more examples of Cuban “graffiti” at the link.
Some background on what’s happening from CNN yesterday: Cuba releases American Alan Gross, paves way for historic easing of American sanctions.
Washington (CNN) — U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
President Barack Obama spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday in a phone call that lasted about an hour and reflected the first communication at the presidential level with Cuba since the Cuban revolution, according to White House officials. Obama announced Gross’ release and the new diplomatic stance at noon in Washington. At around the same time, Cuban president Raul Castro was set to speak in Havana.
President Obama announced a major loosening of travel and economic restrictions on the country. And the two nations are set to re-open embassies, with preliminary discussions on that next step in normalizing diplomatic relations beginning in the coming weeks, a senior administration official tells CNN.
Talks between the U.S. and Cuba have been ongoing since June of 2013 and were facilitated by the Canadians and the Vatican in brokering the deal. Pope Francis — the first pope from Latin America — encouraged Obama in a letter and in their meeting this year to renew talks with Cuba on pursuing a closer relationship.
Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
The developments constitute what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since 1961, when the embassy closed and the embargo was imposed.
Read much more at the link. It’s a good article that provides quite a bit of background on the historic agreement.
More details on the secret negotiations from William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, authors of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, published in October of this year.
Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.
When the mere act of talking to an adversary is too politically sensitive, presidents can resort to private emissaries, despite the risks created by relying on amateur diplomats. Obama had help from both Canada and the Vatican in reaching these new agreements.
In our recent book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, we uncovered literally dozens of secret diplomatic contacts and negotiations. Despite what Kissinger called the “perpetual antagonism” between the United States and Cuba, there is a rich and colorful history of dialogue between these two nations over the last 50 years.
There are lessons to be learned from this half-century of back-channel talks about what works and what doesn’t when conducting secret negotiations.
First, a history of animosity makes adversaries wary. Neither wants to appear weak by making concessions too easily. Goodwill gestures may go unrequited and the apparent obstinacy of one side or the other can doom a diplomatic process before it gets off the ground. When Fidel Castro was in power, for example, he worried constantly that any concession to U.S. demands would be read as weakness and lead to a redoubling of U.S. efforts to overthrow him.
Read all about it at the Reuters link.
From the Masters of Cuban Art Image Gallery, “La Conga” by Evelio Garcia Mata.
“Garcia Mata plays the rhythm of the conga in the body of the mulatto dancer, who lifts her left arm as she does the kick-step. She wears a sensual typical dress and is accompanied by a group of six musicians. The painting beautifully represents when Afro-Cuban music became main-stream, and a representative of Cuban culture at large.”
- Alfredo Triff, Musician and Art Critic
Isn’t it amazing that Pope Francis–the first Latin American to lead the Church–was instrumental in making this happen? As a long-lapsed Catholic, I’m truly surprised and pleased. After years of regressive Popes, this guy seems to be a throwback to the days of Pope John the XXIII when it seemed that the Church might move into the 20th century.
From The Atlantic: How the Pope Helped End the Cuba Embargo.
On Wednesday, a senior Obama administration officials spoke of an “extraordinary letter” written by the pope to President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro over the summer in which he urged the two men to mend the relationship between their countries.
As one official noted, the correspondence “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, which also happens to be the pope’s 78th birthday, President Obama credited Francis for his influential “personal plea” and thanked him for his “moral example.”
In particular, I want to thank his Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.
According to officials, Pope Francis brought up Cuba several times during his meeting with the president in March and, given Francis’ significance as the first pope from Latin America, it’s fair to assume that his clout likely helped bring Castro to the table as well.
Vatican officials were also said to have been present during the negotiations between the United States and Cuba, marking them the only other country to directly participate in the talks. While Canada reportedly hosted the majority of the secret meetings of the two sides, according to a Vatican statement, the pope also hosted Cuban and American representatives together earlier this year during the final deal was struck.
Some reactions to Obama’s great achievement.
From the LA Times, Miami reacts to Obama’s Cuba move: Tears of joy, cries of ‘traitor’.
A tale of two restaurants unfolded in South Florida on Wednesday.
In Miami’s Little Havana, Versailles Restaurant hosted hard-line Cuban exiles railing against President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic ties with the Cuban government. They waved placards and hurled insults bilingually, putting on the show they’ve been rehearsing and staging for half a century.
The show at Versailles involved megaphones and pickup trucks, national news outlets parked in front of a spot that serves tasty espresso, and a handful of outspoken Cuban Americans who yell loud enough to scare viewers in Nebraska. Whenever major news breaks about Cuba, the media flocks to Versailles to take the pulse of the Cuban community.
Meanwhile in Hialeah, a city with a far larger number of Cubans and Cuban Americans than Little Havana, Tropical Restaurant served cafeteria-style meals to a quieter, more sanguine crowd. Here, many welcomed Obama’s decision.
“It’s going to be better for the Cuban people. It’s going to be better for the United States,” said ReinierOropeza, 33, an accountant who to came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1998.
Many Cubans here are young, or came to the United States more recently, or have closer ties with their families in Cuba.
Oropeza said many older Cubans are stuck in the past. “They are old and they stand back and blame Castro. They already did what they had to do. So young people have to take over now.”
Once again, read much more at the link.
Read more about this mural by 100 Cuban artists at The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008: It’s Not Politics. It’s Just Cuba.
More reactions from Republican politicians:
(Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker John Boehner sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy change toward Cuba, calling it “another in a long line of mindless concessions” to a brutal dictatorship.
“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner,” Boehner said in a statement.
Cry me a river, a$$hole. At least Cubans have free health care.
Marco Rubio, who is supposedly a Catholic after transitioning through the Mormon and Southern Baptist churches, had the temerity to “call out the Pope on Cuba” according to Politico.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Catholic, criticized Pope Francis on Wednesday after the pontiff played a key role in helping the United States and Cuba forge an agreement that resulted in the release of American Alan Gross from Cuba.
Rubio said he would “ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy.”
The Florida Republican said he didn’t criticize Francis’ personal appeals to help facilitate Gross’ release, but was speaking in response to the White House’s announcement about talks to normalize relations with Cuba after a nearly 50-year embargo with the country.
Rubio is set to play a major role in Cuba policy as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Affairs, and he noted Wednesday some of Congress’ leverage points, such as funding for embassies and nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba.
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” Rubio said.
More from Huffington Post: Marco Rubio Fires Back On Cuba: Obama Is The ‘Worst Negotiator’ In My Lifetime.
President Barack Obama will get no money for his Cuba policy, no ambassador will be confirmed and the embargo will never be lifted, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) vowed in a blistering press conference on Wednesday.
In a historic move earlier in the day, Obama announced that the United States will begin talks with Cuba to normalize full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba in 50 years. The president’s remarks followed the release on Wednesday morning of American Alan Gross, who had been held in a Cuban prison for five years. Gross’ release was negotiated in exchange for the freeing of three Cubans who had been jailed in the U.S. for spying.
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, based on a lie,” Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The White House has conceded everything and gained little.”
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he added.
Why is this moron in the U.S. Senate? Obama will have more battles ahead with the Republican Congress, but he seems determined to move ahead with the changes he wants to make anyway. I’m rooting for him.
What do you think? What other stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday!
I hate that the blog has been in bitchfest mode lately…mainly because it brings the juju down, but dammit…the news is bad and the people are just hateful! For example:
A Chinese couple who got into a furious row with cabin crew on a flight could find themselves separated for quite some time after the incident escalated when hot noodles were thrown into the face of a hostess.
The incident that happened on a Thai AirAsia plane was captured on cellphone footage taken by other passengers that show one of the hostesses touching her face after being scalded when she was hit with a hot dish.
She was reportedly given first aid on board by her colleagues to deal with the burns and was taken to a hospital after the flight turned around and landed back in the Thai capital Bangkok.
The trouble started when the couple boarded the plane and found themselves seated separately on the charter flight from Bangkok to the Chinese city of Nanjing. And even though the seating was rearranged to put the couple together, they were still angry and refused to calm down.
The video clip showing the man shouting at staff members who are trying to restrain him quickly went viral after it was uploaded on Chinese social media network Weibo. A spokesman for the budget airline said that the plane had been forced to turn round so that the angry couple could be arrested.
The spokesman said that the decision to turn around had been made after the man claimed to have a bomb and threatened to blow the plane up.
They got what they wanted, and still were belligerent assholes.
What the hell is wrong with people?
And let me take it a step further. These assholes, horrid waste of breathing flesh and bone…half of these people are the ones who go on abusing, committing the assault or killing the innocent; and you can bet your ass that, the other half are the people who are just outside during the said violence, killing or assaults…taking obnoxious grinning selfies while there…in the background…human beings are losing their lives.
Some kind of low point that may even sum up something about the direction of society. “I wonder what has happened to empathy?” asks one Mail Online commenter. And you do wonder. Because it takes a special kind of narcissist to take a selfie while, not 100 feet away, people are cooped up with a gunman with their life in – how do you call it? – oh yes, danger. Their lives are in danger. Not a popcorn moment. Not a movie. Not something that, even if all goes well and the hostages make it out safe, you ought to find pleasing-as-punch.
A hostage runs towards a police officer outside a cafe, where other hostages are being held in Sydney
Compare the rubbernecker expression – one guy even literally grinning like a Cheshire Cat – with the terror on the face of the café worker who sprints into the arms of a policeman. I guess the rule should be: don’t selfie when there are a bunch of other selfies nearby that will probably be – at the moment you snap – either crying or close to it.
Tourists have always taken selfies of themselves at Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, but on a day that has horrified the city many people are taking macabre snapshots for old times’ sake as well.
All day people were uploading selfies of themselves on Twitter from as close as possible to where the hostage siege was taking place.
Just to make the photos more authentic some even took them with television cameras in the background. Two onlookers even looked like they were taking a ‘celebration selfie’ than one at a hostage siege. Others smiled happily as if they were standing in front of Sydney Opera House instead of a chilling hostage crisis that could yet end in tragedy.
I really don’t think this generation should be called the Millennial Generation, it should be called the Selfie Generation because that is the perfect description of what they are, selfish.
A few weeks ago I had a bad day. This is not unusual; in fact, it would be worth pointing out if I had a good one, which I believe happened last during the Clinton administration. The day in question was specifically a bad day in the classroom, something that in all honesty does not happen terribly often. Having taught at the college level for the better part of a decade, my expectations are so low that it’s nearly impossible to end up disappointed. I have come to accept the fact that the students have no interest in the subject matter and no desire to interact with me or their classmates in any meaningful way. I expect that they will sit there and look bored for an hour-plus, and that’s usually exactly what I get. Expectations met.
On this particular day, my morning class was presented with a very basic exercise I do with material on public opinion. I put up three pictures: Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, QB/Pizza Salesperson Peyton Manning, and chart-topping knucklehead Lil’ Jon, whose megahit “Turn Down for What” has been inescapable for the past six months. I change the celebrities every year or two to ensure that it’s someone relevant – I used Simon Cowell when “American Idol” first became a big hit, and so on. The way this has always worked is that the students of course identify the athlete and celebrity but have no idea who the elected official is. I also ask them some other celebrity-related questions, like who is married to Kanye West and what the couple named their recent child. The point I make is that Americans are indeed capable of retaining information; we know gobs of facts about sports, celebrities, and so on. We know almost nothing about politics because we do not pay much attention to it and we don’t find it interesting. There is no good reason we can’t know who are representatives are the same way we know the starting lineup of our favorite teams or the cast members of Real Housewives of Shreveport. We know the latter because it interests us and ignore the former because it doesn’t.
I am going to quote the rest of the post because it is so good and so damn true:
Lately, say for the past few semesters, I’ve noticed something strange: the students don’t seem to know any of the celebrity BS anymore either. Back in the mid 2000s, I would ask who is married to Tom Cruise (everyone immediately knew) and what they named their child (in unision, “Suri!”). Now, even though I update the “material” to be contemporary, they don’t really know. They still don’t know who the political figures are, of course, and now they don’t know the trashy celebrity gossip either.
After having this experience in the morning, I went next to an Honors class in which I had reserved the day for discussion. They had assigned readings and some basic questions they were required to answer so that they might have something to talk about in class (as opposed to showing up having read nothing and having never thought about the issue). I don’t even recall the topic, but after about 15 minutes of trying to get blood from a turnip I got exasperated. “OK,” I said, “it is painfully clear that you are not interested in the slightest in this topic. So please tell me, what would you like to talk about? We can talk about anything. Just tell me what interests you. I am serious, I really want to know.”
I won’t recount the entire unfruitful discussion that follows, but I asked dozens of questions that require no knowledge whatsoever to answer. What do you like? What do you do in your free time? Do you watch (sports, movies, TV series, video games, etc)? When you sneak your phones out in class, what are you doing on them? After about an hour I came to the conclusion, based on what this group of about 18 college freshmen and sophomores told me, that their interests are 1) Tumblr, 2) Netflix, and 3) texting each other. As to what they look at on Tumblr, the answer appeared to be random nonsense – memes, cat pictures, collections of pictures of Bad _____, and the like, so it’s not even like they’re using Tumblr to become acquainted with any topic, even a frivolous one. As for what they text each other about given their apparent lack of definable interests, the answer was that they talk about themselves and one another.
Every generation complains about the ones that follow, and I don’t believe that these kids are any dumber than college kids were 20 or 50 years ago. I simply do not understand, however, their complete lack of interest in anything. I get that they are not interested in news and politics; hell, I rely on that fact to make some important points while teaching them about those topics. I am absolutely baffled, though, at the idea that they are not even interested in any of the kinds of fluff that Americans use as alternatives to learning substantive things about the world – sports, Hollywood celebrity crap, pop music, etc. It is alarming to me that in a moment of frustration and total honesty I asked them – begged them – to tell me what does interest them given that my chosen topics so clearly do not and that the answer seems to be…themselves.
I’m trying not to sound like an old, out-of-it man, but this is baffling to me. And I’d be lying if I claimed not to wonder about the future prospects of a cohort of people who may have no interests of any kind outside of their own lives.
He is right, and I think that those selfie pictures during the hostage situation pretty much illustrate that point…to the extreme perhaps but y’all get the point I am trying to make here.
Anyway, I was happy to find out what interest my daughter’s boyfriend, he is into Mongolian history. Which is fine with me, I am glad. However he doesn’t know what the “Battle of the Bulge” is…yeah, fancy that. I mentioned at dinner last night that Dec. 16th was the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. I asked if he knew what that was…and his reply was, something with the civil war? Ugh.
But hey, he should have learned that in history last year. Do they not teach that anymore?
From mid-December 1944 through the end of January 1945, in the heavily forested Ardennes Mountains of Belgium, thousands of American, British, Canadian, Belgian and French forces struggled to turn back the final major German offensive of World War II. While Allied forces ultimately triumphed, it was an absolutely vicious six weeks of fighting, with tens of thousands dead on both sides. Today, the conflict is known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Here, 70 years after the start of the Ardennes Counteroffensive (as the battle is sometimes known), LIFE.com presents a series of photographs made by LIFE photographers throughout the fighting. Many of these pictures never ran in LIFE magazine.
For its final offensive to succeed, Germany needed four factors to work in its favor: catching the Allies off-guard; poor weather that would neutralize air support for Allied troops; the dealing of early, devastating, demoralizing blows against the Allies; and capturing Allied fuel supplies intact. (Indeed, Germany originally intended to attack on November 27, but had to delay its initial assault due to fuel shortages). On December 16, 1944, the German attack began: the Wehrmacht (the Third Reich’s unified armed forces) struck with 250,000 soldiers along an 85-mile stretch of Allied front, stretching from southern Belgium to Luxembourg.
The attack proved stunningly effective, at first, as troops advanced some 50 miles into Allied territory, creating the “bulge” in the American lines that gave the battle its memorable name.
American forces had been feeling triumphant — Paris had just been liberated in August — and there was a sense among some American and other Allied leaders that Germany was all but defeated. The attack in December 1944, officially labeled the “Ardennes-Alsace Campaign” by the U.S. Army, showed that any complacency the Allies might have embraced regarding the Wehrmacht was dangerously misplaced.
(At right: A Belgian woman surveys damage to her home caused by heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge.)
Nevertheless, as effective as the initial German efforts were, they failed to achieve the complete and early knockout of Allied forces that German military brass had hoped for, and counted on. (Wehrmacht Field Marshal Walter Model had given the attack only a 10 percent chance of success to begin with. The German name for the operation: Wacht am Rhein, or “Watch on the Rhine.”)
One of the most difficult aspects of the Bulge was the weather, as extreme — indeed, historic — cold wreaked havoc and turned relatively simple logistics of travel, shelter, and meals into a daily struggle. January 1945 was the coldest January on record for that part of Europe, and over the course of the battle more than 15,000 Allied troops alone were treated for frostbite and other cold-related injuries.
Many more pictures here: Pinterest- BATTLE OF THE BULGE
The rest of the links in dump format:
I don’t know if I would call it “heartwarming.”
Hurray for Benj!
I will end with Doug the Pug, cause all he wants for Christmas…is Food!