Tuesday Reads: The Latest on Israel-Palestine and Ukraine, and Some Unrelated Reads

sleepreading-copy-2

 Good Morning!!

Ugh. I overslept again, and this post will go up a bit late. As I get older, it takes me longer to get rested and reoriented after taking a long trip. Even with almost daily naps, I’m still sleeping longer at night. Normally, I do well with about 7 hours sleep a night. I hope I get back to that routine soon!

Once again, there isn’t a lot of news except for the crises in Gaza and Ukraine. I’ll update you on those and then see if I can find a few other interesting reads.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Here’s the latest on Gaza from Reuters, Israel pounds Gaza despite international peace efforts.

(Reuters) - Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboringEgypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties.

However, there was no let-up in the fighting around Gaza, with plumes of black smoke spiraling into the sky, and Israeli shells raining down on the coastal Palestinian enclave.

Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.

Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes out of Gaza by Hamas, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank and suffering economic hardship because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

“A ceasefire is not near,” said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, viewed as the most dovish member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner security cabinet.

“I see no light at the end of the tunnel,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.

Airstrikes overnight in Gaza Strip (al Jazeera)

Airstrikes overnight in Gaza Strip (al Jazeera)

Also posted just a short time ago at USA Today, Gaza resident: We’re being ‘collectively punished’.

GAZA CITY — As Israeli forces continued their air, land and sea offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, hitting about 70 targets including five mosques, outrage among Palestinians caught in the crossfire grows with the mounting death toll.

More than 583 Palestinians have died and more than 3,300 people [have been] injured in the offensive, The Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The two-week carnage has led many Palestinians to express their support for Hamas, the terrorist-cum-political group that Israeli forces have been targeting since July 8 in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks against Israel.

“We faced two Israeli wars before but this one is the most bloodiest and most cruel,” said Abu Awni, 38, of Gaza City. “Civilians are attacked in their homes. I’m against Hamas, but when Israel is killing my family, then I will join Hamas.”

“The world must wake up and stop consuming Israeli propaganda,” he added. “More than half of the population in Gaza is not affiliated with Hamas. But we have been collectively punished.”

Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Quidra said the casualties were the same as a full-fledged war. “Bodies torn to pieces. Severe burns. We even found some chips of missiles in the bodies of victims,” he said.

This video from CNN is incredible. Wolf Blitzer asks a Gaza resident why he doesn’t just leave if things are so bad? The man responds, “Where can I flee?” and then continues with a barage of sarcasm, while Blitzer listens stone-faced.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyau continues to assert that the deaths in Gaza are caused by Hamas using residents as “human shields.” Israel has asked these people to leave urban areas, he says, but they just won’t leave. He doesn’t say where they are supposed to go.

I’ve posted a few of David Harris-Gershon’s blog posts from Tikkun. Gershon has strongly support Israel for his entire life, but he recently reached a breaking point. Here’s his latest, Not in My Name, Netanyahu.

As I write these words, my hands tremble from the unspeakable images and stories I’ve witnessed in Gaza. They tremble with worry that those young Israeli soldiers losing their lives, casualties in a war they did not create, will be among those families I know, and that their numbers will grow.

My hands also tremble because, during all this, Israel’s leader – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has repeatedlyclaimed to represent me, and all Jews, as Israel continues its brutal assault on Gaza, an assault which, as historyshows, will neither achieve its strategic goals nor reap anything but heartache.

No, he does not speak for me.

When Netanyahu said on CNN that Palestinians benefit from “telegenically dead” civilians killed by Israel, that images of carnage helped Hamas because journalists would then ask about Israel’s actions, he did not speak for me.

When he said that Palestinians “don’t give any thought” about their children or their welfare, and that Palestinians use their children as though they are inanimate objects, he did not speak for me.

Read the rest at the link. It’s not long.

Ukraine and the Downed Malaysian Airlines Plane

From CNN, Ukraine says Russian officer pushed the button to shoot down MH17.

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) – As bodies from Thursday’s air disaster reached a facility Tuesday in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the Ukrainian government ratcheted up its accusations against Moscow, saying a Russian officer shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Vitaly Nayda, Ukraine’s director of informational security, made the accusation in an interview with CNN. The person was “absolutely” a Russian, he said. “A Russian-trained, well-equipped, well-educated officer … pushed that button deliberately.”

Ukrainian intelligence backs up the assertion, Nayda said.

Moscow has denied claims that it pulled the trigger. And Russian Army Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov suggested a Ukrainian jet fighter may have shot the plane down….

Nayda, speaking to CNN on Tuesday, referred to audio recordings captured by Ukrainian intelligence. “We taped conversations” between a Russian officer and his office in Moscow, Nayda said. “We know for sure that several minutes before the missile was launched, there was a report” to a Russian officer that the plane was coming, Nayda said.

body train

From Reuters: Train with MH17 bodies on final journey reaches Ukraine base.

Five refrigerated wagons containing 200 body bags arrived in the city of Kharkiv after pro-Russian separatists agreed to hand over the plane’s black boxes to Malaysian authorities and the bodies to the Netherlands, where many victims had lived.

The train slowly rolled into the grounds of an arms industry plant, where the remains are due to be unloaded and flown to the Netherlands. A spokesowman for a Dutch team of forensic experts in Kharkiv said this was not expected before Wednesday….

Western governments, including European Union ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, have threatened Russia with broader sanctions for what they say is its backing of the militia although they are struggling to agree a response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would urge the separatists to allow a full investigation. The Netherlands said it would lead the investigation while Malaysia said it would look after the plane’s black boxes until a team was set up.

The New York Times reported on Russia’s Message on Jet: Conciliation and Bluster.

MOSCOW — Russia presented a combination of conciliation and bluster on Monday over its handling of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet, with President Vladimir V. Putin seemingly probing for a way out of the crisis without appearing to compromise with the West.

On one hand, he offered conciliatory words in a video statement, oddly released in the middle of the night, while the separatists allied with Moscow in southeastern Ukraine released the bodies of the victims and turned over the black box flight recorders from the doomed aircraft to Malaysian officials.

However, two senior military officers forcefully demanded that the United States show publicly any proof that rebels fired the fatal missile, and again suggested that the Ukrainian military shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet despite the fact that Ukraine has not used antiaircraft weapons in the fight along its eastern border.

Mr. Putin seemed to respond to the outraged international demands growing daily that he intervene personally to rein in the rebels — particularly to halt the degrading chaos surrounding the recovery of the remains. But at the same time, Moscow did not concede that it was at fault.

Much more at the link.

Finally, Politico polled voters on whether they wanted to intervene in this conflicts, POLITICO poll: Stay out of Ukraine, Middle East

Amid deepening violence across Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Americans are recoiling from direct engagement overseas and oppose U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine by large margins, according to a POLITICO poll of 2014 battleground voters.

The survey provides a unique look at the foreign policy attitudes of voters who will decide the most competitive Senate and House races this fall. It shows an intensely skeptical view of American military intervention:

Asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, just 17 percent answered in the affirmative. Thirty-one percent said the current policy is correct and 34 percent said the U.S. should be less involved. The poll was completed before the downing last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the civilian airliner that was apparently attacked over eastern Ukraine.

The poll results also showed that Americans don’t want out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and don’t want to be drawn back in for any reason. Are you listening Congress?

other news

Links to Some Interesting Reads on other Topics

I highly recommend this one from The New Republic, Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies.

From the NYT, The End of ‘Genius,’ by Joshua Wolf Shenk.

Bad news for states that didn’t set up ACA exchanges (NPR), U.S. Appeals Court Deals Blow To Obama’s Health Law.

We already knew this, but now there’s a study to prove it, FBI pressured Muslims into committing terrorist acts, then arrested them: report (Raw Story).

Talk to Action, Access Denied: The Religious Right Opens Up A New Front On Its War Against Birth Control, by Rob Boston.

BBC News, The German officer who tried to kill Hitler, by Alex Last.

NPR, Sixth-Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists.

From The Nation, via Alternet, Journalistic Malpractice: The Media Enables the Right-Wing Politicization of Science, by Reed Richardson.

What stories are you following today?


Sunday Reads

Jim Rockford reading file

Good Morning!!

We’ve lost another one of the greats. James Garner, star of movies and TV, has died. He was 86. I loved his TV show The Rockford Files (1974-1980). I watched the show faithfully and watched the reruns for years after it went off the air. I loved the show’s combination of comedy and drama that played off Garner’s relaxed, good-humored personality.

Garner was found dead in his home late last night, according to ABC News.

Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western “Maverick” led to a stellar career in TV and films such as “The Rockford Files” and his Oscar-nominated “Murphy’s Romance,” has died, police said. He was 86.

He was found dead of natural causes at his home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles Saturday evening, Los Angeles police officer Alonzo Iniquez said early Sunday.

Police responded to a call around 8 p.m. PDT and confirmed Garner’s identity from family members, Iniquez told The Associated Press.

There was no immediate word on a more specific cause of death. Garner had suffered a stroke in May 2008, just weeks after his 80th birthday.

200 a day plus expenses

From The New York Times: James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86.

Mr. Garner was a genuine star but as an actor something of a paradox: a lantern-jawed, brawny athlete whose physical appeal was both enhanced and undercut by a disarming wit. He appeared in more than 50 films, many of them dramas, but as he established in one of his notable early performances, as a battle-shy naval officer in “The Americanization of Emily” (1964) — and had shown before that in “Maverick” — he was most at home as an iconoclast, a flawed or unlikely hero.

An understated comic actor, he was especially adept at conveying life’s tiny bedevilments. One of his most memorable roles was as a perpetually flummoxed pitchman for Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in droll commercials in which he played a vexed husband and Mariette Hartley played his needling wife. They were so persuasive that Ms. Hartley had a shirt printed with the declaration “I am NOT Mrs. James Garner.”

His one Academy Award nomination was for the 1985 romantic comedy “Murphy’s Romance,” in which he played a small-town druggist who woos the new-in-town divorced mom (Sally Field) with a mixture of self-reliance, grouchy charm and lack of sympathy for fools.

Even Rockford, a semi-tough ex-con (he had served five years on a bum rap for armed robbery) who lived in a beat-up trailer in a Malibu beach parking lot, drove a Pontiac Firebird and could handle himself in a fight (though he probably took more punches than he gave), was exasperated most of the time by one thing or another: his money problems, the penchant of his father (Noah Beery Jr.) for getting into trouble or getting in the way, the hustles of his con-artist pal Angel (Stuart Margolin), his dicey relationship with the local police.

Jim Rockford and Angel Martin

Jim Rockford and Angel Martin

“Maverick” had been in part a send-up of the conventional western drama, and “The Rockford Files” similarly made fun of the standard television detective, the man’s man who upholds law and order and has everything under control. A sucker for a pretty girl with a distinctly ’70s fashion sense — he favored loud houndstooth jackets — Rockford was perpetually wandering into threatening situations in which he ended up pursued by criminal goons or corrupt cops. He tried, mostly successfully, to steer clear of using guns; instead, a bit of a con artist himself, he relied on impersonations and other ruses — and high-speed driving skills. Every episode of the show, which ran from 1974-80 and more often than not involved at least one car chase and Rockford’s getting beat up a time or two, began with a distinctive theme song featuring a synthesizer and a blues harmonica and a message coming in on a newfangled gadget — Rockford’s telephone answering machine — that underscored his unheroic existence: “Jim, this is Norma at the market. It bounced. Do you want us to tear it up, send it back or put it with the others?”

And isn’t it nice to know that Garner was a “a lifelong Democrat who was active in behalf of civil rights and environmental causes…”?

Here’s one of The Rockford Files iconic opening sequences:

I came across a terrific 2012 essay on The Rockford Files by a philosophy professor named B.B. Olshin at Cynical Times News: Finding Solace in The Rockford Files: Values of Post-Watergate anti-hero still resonate.

I like car chases.

As a philosophy professor, who spends a good deal of time reading through Plato and exploring obscure Daoist thought, there’s something about sitting in front of the television and watching one slick car chase after another that allows my own mind to throttle back. Car chases, in fact, are a big part of the reason I still enjoy watching reruns of “The Rockford Files” — a series loaded with car chases that ran for six seasons, starting in 1974. Another reason is the inherent goodness of lead character Jim Rockford, which is so hard to find today.

After all, I am a philosophy professor, which means that as I watch The Rockford Files, I can’t help but notice how the societal shabbiness and decay it depicts mirrors the period we’re now experiencing – especially our almost willful hurtle towards authoritarianism.

We like to think that the good guy will win out, but even in “The Rockford Files” the fast car chases don’t always end with evil on the run. That said, you would never see Jim Rockford embracing the tactics of repression, like those practiced in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, to eke out a win.

The show featured lead character Jim Rockford in a broad-lapeled sport jacket. The private detective was often tailing someone in his gold Pontiac Firebird or expertly evading a tail by the bad guys.

Rockford had a strong jaw and a stylish look, but was really more anti-hero than hero. He always strove to do the right thing, even when it meant coming up short. The character mirrored a real and honest citizen more than anything else.

Check it out. The essay is two years old, but I think it’s still relevant to current events.

Israel’s Attack on Gaza

Tanks maneuvered outside the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, as Israel intensified its land offensive against Hamas, with artillery, tanks and gunboats. Credit Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Tanks maneuvered outside the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, as Israel intensified its land offensive against Hamas, with artillery, tanks and gunboats. Credit Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

The rest of the news today is pretty much a downer, led by Israel’s continued attacks on Gaza. This was posted moments ago at CNN: Dozens killed in Palestinian town; Netanyahu calls for demilitarizing Gaza.

Gaza City (CNN) – Hundreds of Palestinians fled in panic into Gaza City on Sunday as Israeli troops focused their firepower on the nearby town of Shaja’ia. The shelling and bombing killed at least 60 people and wounded 300, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

In previous days, Israel warned residents to flee, through calls, text messages and dropping fliers that said “it is the intention of the IDF to carry out aerial strikes against terror sites and operatives” in the area. The fliers told people to head to Gaza City by Wednesday morning and not to return until further notice. The IDF posted an English translation of the fliers Sunday on Twitter.

Some residents said they had received the warnings but felt that even if they fled, they could face the same dangers in other parts of Gaza.

Israel claims these people were ordered by Hamas to stay in harm’s way, and therefore they are responsible for their own deaths and injuries. Republican Senator Marco Rubio agrees. He says the deaths in Gaza are “100 percent Hamas’ fault” (video).

I highly recommend reading this NYT article by Tyler Hicks, who witnessed the deaths of four young boys who were innocently play on a beach in Gaza City. But have a box of Kleenex handy.

Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by Gaza Shore.

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I had returned to my small seaside hotel around 4 p.m. to file photos to New York when I heard a loud explosion. My driver and I rushed to the window to see what had happened. A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach.

I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there.

By the time I reached the beach, I was winded from running with my heavy armor. I paused; it was too risky to go onto the exposed sand. Imagine what my silhouette, captured by an Israeli drone, might look like as a grainy image on a laptop somewhere in Israel: wearing body armor and a helmet, carrying cameras that could be mistaken for weapons. If children are being killed, what is there to protect me, or anyone else?

I watched as a group of people ran to the children’s aid. I joined them, running with the feeling that I would find safety in numbers, though I understood that feeling could be deceptive: Crowds can make things worse. We arrived at the scene to find lifeless, mangled bodies. The boys were beyond help. They had been killed instantly, and the people who had rushed to them were shocked and distraught.

Some helpful reads on the Israeli-Palestine conflict:

Yesterday I read an interview with Max Blumenthal that Dakiniat posted a couple of days ago. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already, To Zion and Back: Ismail Khalidi interviews Max Blumenthal. Blumenthal is the author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

Also worth reading, MJ Rosenberg at Tikkun Daily: Gaza Burns To Please The Donors.

Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine

Here’s an excellent–though graphic–article on the downed Malaysian airliner in Ukraine by Max Seddon of Buzzfeed: Chaos At Malaysia Airlines Crash Site Leaves Victims By The Roadside.

HRABOVE, Ukraine — A muted sun baked golden fields of hay and sunflowers. Bloated and mangled bodies gave off a fetid stench. A burly gunman who called himself Grumpy stepped into the road as a convoy of international observers snaked along the bumpy country road to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

“I will let none of you pass! I have an order!” he shouted. Motley gunmen in ragtag uniforms flanked out alongside him. A lanky rebel in a beekeeping suit who reeked of alcohol folded his automatic rifle in his arms. The observers wandered out, then meekly retreated.

Two days after MH17 was shot down over east Ukraine — turning a simmering separatist conflict into a crisis of global proportions — the crash site remains a hideous mess that will make it harder for investigators to establish what happened — and for relatives to get peace. As Ukraine, Russia, and Moscow-backed rebels trade barbs over which side fired the missile that brought the Boeing 777 jet down, the bodies of the 298 passengers and crew killed instantaneously were still strewn across a field, decomposing in the 85-degree heat.

Nobody seemed to know where the bodies would be taken. Ukraine wants them stored 185 miles north in Kharkiv, the only nearby city with the facilities to take them, but claims that rebels have already spirited 38 corpses to their nearby stronghold in Donetsk and conducted their own autopsies. With the wreckage from the crash spread out over a 10-square-mile radius, the many bodies still at the scene may fare worse. Ukraine claims to have found 186, and BuzzFeed counted 82 in Hrabove alone, many of them unmoved since the crash. Local firemen and police officers, some of whom had clearly spent the night drinking moonshine, listlessly shoveled body parts into black garbage bags and left them to broil at the roadside.

Read more at the link.

Today’s latest headlines on this story:

USA Today: Bodies of MH17 victims on train bound for rebel-held city.

Live Blog at Zee News: Ukraine rebels to give MH17 black boxes to International Civil Aviation Organisation.

These are the biggest stories so far today, IMHO; I’ll add a few more headlines in the comment thread. What are you reading and blogging about this summer Sunday?


Friday Reads: Israel Invades Gaza, Downing of Jet a Ukraine a “Game Changer,” and the Unrelenting War on Women

kubrick-subway-newspapers

Good Morning!!

Lately I’ve been remarking about how slow the news is in these dog days of summer. Suddenly there is lots going on–even on a Friday–and the news isn’t good. It’s difficult to say which is worse: the escalating battle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza or the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. And of course there is the ongoing war on women’s reproductive freedom. This post is going to be a link dump without a lot of commentary because, quite frankly, I’m at a loss for words.

Israel Invades Gaza

The LA Times reports: Israeli troops and tanks move into the Gaza Strip.

After 10 days of Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered ground troops into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, escalating an exchange of fire that has claimed more than 240 lives, all but one of them Palestinian.

Under cover of darkness, tanks rolled across the northern border of the coastal enclave, backed by intense shelling from the land, air and sea all along the frontier, witnesses said.

The immediate objective was to strike at tunnels Hamas and its allies use to smuggle weapons and fighters into Israel, according to a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office….

Israeli officials said Netanyahu made the decision to send in ground forces after Hamas, the militant movement that has controlled the enclave since 2007, rejected a cease-fire brokered by Egypt this week and fired rockets at Israel during a five-hour truce Thursday that was requested by the United Nations. The truce was meant to allow Gaza’s battered residents to stock up on food, cash and other necessities.

There’s much more information at the link.

1955 train

From the NYT: Israeli Military Invades Gaza, With Sights Set on Hamas Operations.

As rockets continued to rain down on Israeli cities, a military spokesman said the mission’s expansion was “not time bound” and was aimed to ensure Hamas operatives were “pursued, paralyzed and threatened” as it targeted “terrorist infrastructure” in the north, south and east of Gaza “in parallel.”

As midnight approached Thursday, residents of some sparsely populated farmland in northern Gaza were cowering in their homes, afraid to answer mobile phones or peek out windows. Some sent text messages reporting that they could hear tank shelling, heavy artillery, and F-16s dropping bombs. Moussa al-Ghoul, 63, who lives northwest of Beit Lahiya, said his neighborhood had turned into “a war zone” with tanks surrounding his home, having destroyed those of two of his sons. He said shells were landing “everywhere.”

Gaza news outlets reported that electricity had been cut to 80 percent of the coastal territory after cables bringing power from Israel were damaged….

“We will strike Hamas and we are determined to restore peace to the state of Israel,” the military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, told reporters in a conference call. “It will progress according to the situation assessment and according to our crafted and designed plan of action to enable us to carry out this mission.”

Israel began to call up 18,000 reservists, adding to 50,000 already mobilized in recent days; Colonel Lerner said the ground forces would include infantry and artillery units, armored and engineer corps, supported by Israel’s “vast intelligence capabilities,” air force and navy.

Again, many more details at the link.

9.Job seekers, men standing in front of the Chicago Daily News building, looking at newspapers

From Reuters a short time ago this morning: Israel steps up Gaza ground offensive, civilian casualties grow.

Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and warned it could “significantly widen” an operation Palestinian officials said was killing ever greater numbers of civilians.

Palestinian health officials said 27 Palestinians, including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel sent ground forces into the densely-populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians on Thursday.

The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen while another 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Islamist Hamas-dominated territory.

One Israeli soldier was killed and several others were wounded in the operations, in which some 150 targets, including 21 concealed rocket launchers and four tunnels, have been attacked, according to the military.

Read more at the link.

I don’t even know what to say about this conflict other than I’ve pretty much lost any sympathy I once had for Israel. I can’t understand why the Israeli people keep electing far right warmongering leaders.

Downing of Malaysian Airlines Jet Over Ukraine

After the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane with nearly 300 people on board, the conflict in Ukraine has become a full blown international crisis.

cigar-smoking-traveler-crowds-bench-seat-while-reading-a-newspaper-on-19th-century-train-copy

From the Kyiv Post this morning: SBU intercepts phone conversations of separatists admitting downing a civilian plane (FULL TRANSCRIPT; VIDEO).

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was allegedly shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some 80 kilometers north-west of Donetsk, according to recordings of intercepted phone calls between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups, released by the country’s security agency (SBU).

One phone call apparently was made at 4:40 p.m. Kyiv time, or 20 minutes after the plane crash, by Igor Bezler, who the SBU says is a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. He reports to a person identified by Ukraine’s SBU as a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Vasili Geranin regarding the shot down plane, which is about to be examined by the militants.

The second intercepted conversation released by the Security Service of Ukraine was apparently between militants nicknamed “Major” and “Greek” immediately upon inspection of the crash site.

“It’s 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft,” Major is recorded as saying, as he admitted to seeing no weapons on site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”

In the third part of conversation Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin talking to an unidentified militant cynically suggests that the Malaysia Airlines airplane could’ve been carrying spies, as, otherwise, it would have no business flying in that area.

Read the rest of the transcript at the link–lots of “Oh shit”-type quotes.

old-man-reading-newspaper

Julia Ioffe writes at The New Republic, The Crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 is a Game Changer: This Conflict is Now Officially Out of Control.

Over the last couple of months, pro-Russian separatists have beendowningUkrainian military planes with increasing regularityand mounting casualties on the Ukrainian side. Just earlier Thursday, separatists had shot down another one. All of that seemed to undermine the narrative, propagated by the Kremlin, that the separatists were just a ragtag people’s militia who didn’t stand a chance against a proper, organized military. The constant downing of Ukrainian jets showed that these men were equipped with some pretty serious stuff: You can’t really shoot down a jet with a Kalashnikov.

And, in fact, Russian a state media report from late June indicates the rebels got a hold of a Buk missile system, a Russian/Soviet surface-to-air missile system. Rebels are now denying that they shot down the plane, but there are now screenshots floating around the Russian-language internet from what seems to be the Facebook page of Igor Strelkov, a rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, showing plumes of smoke and bragging about shooting down a Ukrainian military Antonov plane shortly before MH17 fell. “Don’t fly in our skies,” he reportedly wrote. If that’s true, it would seem rebels downed the jetliner, having mistaken it for a Ukrainian military jet….

Make no mistake: this is a really, really, really big deal. This is the first downing of a civilian jetliner in this conflict and, if it was the rebels who brought it down, all kinds of ugly things follow. For one thing, what seemed to be gelling into a frozen local conflict has now broken into a new phase, one that directly threatens European security. The plane, let’s recall, was flying from Amsterdam.

For another, U.S. officials have long been saying that there’s only one place that rebels can get this kind of heavy, sophisticated weaponry: Russia. This is why a fresh round of sanctions was announced yesterday. Now, the U.S. and a long-reluctant Europe may be forced to do more and implement less surgical and more painful sanctions.

This also seems to prove that Russia has lost control of the rebels, who have been complaining for some time of being abandoned by President Vladimir Putin. There is no way that, a day after criticizingthe recklessness of American foreign policy, his military shoots down a passenger plane. Rather, it seems that the rebels made a mistake that paints Putin into a corner. Putin hates corners, and when he’s backed into one, he tends to lash out.

Adding another level of shock to the story, Buzzfeed reports that at least 100 passengers on the Mayaysian jet were on their way to an international AIDS conference.

And a related story from from the WSJ, Ukraine Accuses Russia of Shooting Down Fighter Jet: Ministry of Defense Says Missiles Probably Fired By Aircraft Patrolling Border.

MOSCOW—Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia’s armed forces of shooting down one of its fighter jets over Ukrainian territory, marking Kiev’s most direct accusation yet of Moscow’s involvement in the separatist conflict in the country’s east.

The accusation came hours before a Malaysia Airlines3786.KU -11.11% plane carrying 295 passengers and crew crashed while flying over the east Ukraine region of Donetsk.

A Russian military plane fired on and downed a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet that was flying over the town of Amvrosiivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Wednesday night, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a briefing.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said the jet was shot in the tail section from the direction of the Russian border while it was turning around at approximately 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. (Follow the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine.)

“In this way, Russia has executed another provocation,” the ministry said in a statement. “The bombardment probably came from air-to-air missiles fired by a pair of Russian Armed Forces aircraft patrolling the border in a certain area.”

Also well worth a read: at Pando, Mark Ames offers Five things to consider about the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in Ukraine.

The Ongoing War on Women’s Reproductive Rights

1963 subway news

Laura Bassett at HuffPo reports, White House: Employers Must Disclose Objections To Covering Birth Control.

The Department of Labor updated its website to indicate that closely held for-profit corporations must include in their insurance plans “a description of the extent to which preventive services (which includes contraceptive services) are covered under the plan.” If the company chooses to opt out of covering any of the 20 contraceptives required by the Affordable Care Act, it has 60 days to disclose the change to its employees.

A senior administration official said the move was in response to the Senate failing to pass a bill Wednesday that would have required all for-profit employers, regardless of their owners’ religious objections, to cover the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception in their health care plans. The bill would have overridden a recent Supreme Court decision that allowed Hobby Lobby, a craft supply company owned by evangelical Christians, to opt out of covering certain contraceptives to which the owners religiously object.

“Yesterday, a majority of the Senate voted for a bill to keep bosses from interfering in a woman’s health care,” the official said. “Now the House should act. In the meantime, we are making clear that if a corporation like Hobby Lobby drops coverage of contraceptive services from its health plan, it must do so in the light of day by letting its workers and their families know.”

The clarification is not a new rule. Current law already states that employers must disclose changes in their health benefits to employees. But the new guidance on the ACA makes clear that the disclosure requirement applies to those corporations opting out of birth control coverage after the Hobby Lobby decision.

Jezebel tells it like it is: Your Employers Must Tell You If They Think You’re a Babykilling Slut.

After the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision went down, many women wondered if they would suddenly find themselves at the mercy of their boss’s heretofore unknown beliefs that women who take birth control are abortion-happy harlots. Unfortunately, the answer is still yes. Fortunately, thanks to new rules set forth by the White House today, your boss has to inform you if and when this is happening….

Ideally, today’s directive will force companies with “religious beliefs” to be straightforward with their employees rather than sneaky about how badly they’re hosing everyone. And critics of this directive might wonder what the benefit is. If companies are run by zealots, then what good will telling the employees do?

Here’s what this “inform your employees of your conscientious objections” mandate will do: it will leave a paper trail that disgruntled employees could easily pass onto media outlets, which media outlets can then convey to the general public. The public can then avoid shopping at places run by people who think that birth control is murder.

And now’s as good a time as any to say this: if your boss informs you that your birth control is no longer covered because Jesus Loves Zygotes, let us know.

Those are my recommendations for today. What stories are you reading and blogging about?


Wednesday Reads

The Striped Towel, Marie Fox

The Striped Towel, Marie Fox

Good Morning!!

I’m finally back home in Greater Boston. Last night at around 5PM, I almost teared up when I saw the sign reading “Massachusetts Welcomes You,” with the little chickadee on it. I’m so torn, because I love Indiana too; but I’ve lived in Boston since 1967–47 years–and I love it here too!

Here I am, 66 years old, and I have no idea what to do with the rest of my life. Should I move back to Indiana where my mother lives or should I stay here where I’ve lived for most of my life? And will I even have a choice? I can’t stay where I’m living indefinitely, and there’s no way I can afford an apartment in the Boston area unless I manage to get into subsidized elderly housing. It would be much cheaper to to live in Indiana.

I have no idea what will happen, and I’m not sure how much control I’ll have over it anyway. I guess I just have to keep on truckin’ and try not to agonize too much about the future.

Anyway, the new continues onward no matter where I am. Here are some stories that caught my attention today.

Hillary on The Daily Show

On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart tried to cajole Hillary Clinton into saying whether or not she’ll run for president in 2016. According to The Week, 

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart states (almost) unequivocally that his guest, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is declaring her candidacy for president in 2016 on his show. (Spoiler: She doesn’t.) But Clinton all but agrees with Stewart when he declares her candidacy for her, even knowingly answering all the right questions on his career aptitude test. If Clinton’s candidacy is supposed to be a long tease, maybe we’re approaching the denouement.

Clinton laughs a lot in the interview, and it’s clearly a friendly audience, but Stewart actually asks some interesting, tough questions. He also playfully tells her that nobody cares about her book, Tough Choices, and calls her out when she darts around his barbs. In fact, for somebody supposed to be a “terrible politician,” she fields the questions and turns around the criticism pretty skillfully.

Really? A “terrible politician?” That must be why she was elected to the Senate twice and why she won more primary votes than Barack Obama in 2008 (Yes, Virginian, Obama was nominated only with help from Superdelegate votes and Michigan Votes taken from Hillary and handed over to him by the Rules Committee.) In fact, she’s such a “terrible politician” than her former rival nominated her as his Secretary of State.

Sigh . . . Why don’t people actually watch and listen to Hillary herself instead of buying into the propaganda from her obsessed critics? Here is the Daily Show video from You Tube (I hope it doesn’t get taken down):

And BTW, “progressives,” getting Elizabeth Warren to run against Hillary for the nomination is a good recipe for electing Mitt Romney in 2016. From HuffPo: Ready For Warren Campaign Launches To Convince Elizabeth Warren To Run For President

WASHINGTON — An enthusiastic band of activists has launched a campaign to slow the momentum of Hillary Clinton and convince Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that she should run for president in 2016.

“I think there’s an opportunity for us to convince her if we’re really able to make the case as to why we think she’s the right person,” said Erica Sagrans, who has signed on as the Ready For Warren campaign manager.

The group already has a Facebook pageTwitter account and a new website with a petition encouraging Warren to run.

Sagrans, who worked on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, will be joined by political activist Billy Wimsatt, who previously founded the League of Young Voters and is going to be a senior adviser to the new group.

Reached for comment, Lacey Rose, Warren’s press secretary, told HuffPost, “No, Senator Warren does not support this effort.”

I love Liz, but she had no political experience before running for the Senate two years ago, she is approximately the same age as Hillary, and she doesn’t have the connections to raise the necessary money. Please grow up or shut the fuck up, assholes.

beach reading1

Old Fogies of the GOP

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias asks, “How long can the GOP last as the cranky oldster party?”

You can tell it’s the dog days of summer because some of Washington’s finest minds are spending their time debating the inherently unknowable question of whether today’s teenagers will grow up to be Republicans. Jon Chait says no way, but Harry Enten and John Sides and David Leonhardt say maybe….

More interesting than asking whether people born in the 1990s will be voting GOP in the 2020s, I think, is asking what kind of a GOP it would have to be for them to vote for it. As an older member of the left-leaning youth cohort, I was really struck by something John Boehner said four summers ago. He complained that the Democratic majority that existed that summer, paired with Barack Obama, was “snuffing out the America that I grew up in.”

Boehner was born in 1949 and presumably isn’t nostalgic for the sky-high income tax rates (or strong labor unions) of his youth. So what was so great about it? The racial and gender discrimination? In practice, he probably didn’t have anything at all in mind — he’s just mixing up disagreement with aspects of the Democratic agenda (the specific issue under discussion was the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill) with a generalized nostalgia for his youth. That probably resonates with a lot of older Americans, but while today’s teenagers might well turn against some of the failings of Obama-era liberalism, they’re unlikely to be pining for a return to Mad Men social norms….

There’s something very oldsterish about contemporary conservative politics. The constant bickering about Ronald Reagan is very odd to anyone too young to have any particular recollection of the Reagan years. Calling a group of people “Beyoncé Voters” as an insult is weird. Some of this oldsterism is just tics, but some of it has policy implications. The sort of budgetary priorities that call for huge cuts in all domestic spending, except no cuts at all for anyone born before 1959 is kind of weird. The huge freakout over New York City starting a bicycle program last summer was bizarre. It’s easy to imagine a political party that’s broadly favorable to low taxes and light regulation without sharing this particular set of tics. And then there was the time George Will wrote a column-length rant against blue jeans.

Not to mention Will’s wildly out-dated views on rape. Frankly, I think a lot of powerful Democrats are aging badly too. I’d like to see some of them move on and make room for some new blood. But let’s begin with the Republicans.

Beach Recliner, Candace Lovely

Beach Recliner, Candace Lovely

Speaking of cranky old folks, Dick Cheney has been all over the media lately, and I’ve had it up to here (point to neck).

From Politico: Cheney family sounds off after Iraq protests.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday defended the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, calling it “absolutely the right thing to do.”

“I believed in it then, I look back on it now, it was absolutely the right thing to do,” the Wyoming Republican said with regard to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Cheney made his comments at a POLITICO Playbook lunch conversation with his wife, Lynne, and daughter Liz at Washington’s Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, a lively event that featured jokes, a standing-room-only crowd and a few interruptions — protesters delayed the event twice, screaming at the former vice president for being a “war criminal.”

Notice the quotes around “war criminal,” as if that were hyperbole. I’m afraid not, Politico.

Mike Allen, POLITICO’s chief White House correspondent, began the event by asking Dick Cheney about his decision to lambaste the Obama administration over its foreign policy, particularly in contrast to former President George W. Bush, who has declined to criticize the president since he left office.

Citing a decades-long precedent of former presidents refusing to criticize their successors, Cheney said: “I’m not bound by those strictures.”

Of course not. Cheney has never been bound by any “strictures,” even as a young man when he managed to obtain five draft deferments while others his age were fight and dying in another pointless war he supported.

Solitude, Woman at the Beach, Rita C. Ford

Solitude, Woman at the Beach, Rita C. Ford

Fortunately, we have Charles Pierce: THINGS IN POLITICO THAT MAKE ME WANT TO MAINLINE ANTIFREEZE, PART THE INFINITY.

Its puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks. Once a mere surface irritation, Tiger Beat On The Potomac has finally crossed over into being a thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism. It has demonstrated its essential worthlessness. It has demonstrated that it has the moral character of a sea-slug and the professional conscience of theTreponema pallidum spirochete. Trust me. Stephen Glass never sunk this low. Mike (Payola) Allen has accomplished the impossible. He’s made Jayson Blair look like Ernie Pyle.

It’s not just that TBOTP invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It’s not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it’s not as though this was a mere interview—a “get” that could help you “win the morning (!).” In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of Mike Allen’s little grift-o-rama special events—a “Playbook lunch,” sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There’s an upcoming TBOTP “event” in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price. Here’s how TBOTP‘s own account of the event begins.

Sing it with us: “Here’s the story of a man named Cheney …” Dick, Lynne and Liz Cheney had a message they wanted to send with their appearance at POLITICO’s Playbook lunch on Monday: We’re a family, we’re happy together, we joke together, and we’re beating the drum for an aggressive foreign policy together. It’s almost as if the Cheneys were the Brady Bunch—if the Brady Bunch had started a hawkish think tank and were warning the country about the failures of President Barack Obama’s leadership around the world.

Yes, and if Mike were an authoritarian greed-monkey with a borrowed heart that he declined to employ in any meaningful sense, if Carol were a lifelong scold and nuisance pretending to be a historian, and if Marcia were a talentless clown who, if it weren’t for the largesse of Mike’s friends and their foundations, would be selling phony subprime packages to the blind from a strip-mall in Kannapolis. Also, whatever editor it was who passed on the tone of this account should be sent back to the oyster cannery where they found him.

Please go over to Esquire and read the whole thing. It’s highly therapeutic. And here’s another counterpoint from The New York Daily News: Dick Cheney interview drowned out by hecklers Monday in D.C.

Cheney also told Jake Tapper than he doesn’t think Republicans should try to impeach President Obama, even though he is “the worst president of my lifetime.” How magnanimous of dear old Dick!

 

 Other News . . .

MSNBC,  Obama admin to join voting rights cases in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Bob Cesca, Protesters Carrying Firearms March Against Immigrant Children in Michigan.

The Arizona Republic, Arizona politician mistakes ‘Y’ campers for migrant children.

Huffington Post,  Americans Are Too Stupid For GMO Labeling, Congressional Panel Says.

Jonthan Chait, Diane Ravitch: Campbell Brown Shouldn’t Worry Her Pretty Little Head About Education Policy.

 

What stories are you following today?


Sunday Reads: Israel-Palestine Conflict and Presidential Break-Out

woman-reading Childe Hassam 1885

Good Morning!!

Is it just me, or is there less exciting news this summer than usual? Today, the top stories are the Israel-Palestine conflict and President Obama’s supposed sudden freedom to be himself. Oh, and the so-called “super moon” that reached its peak last night.

I have to be honest; I don’t understand why Israel is stepping up its attacks on the Palestine territory; Israel-Palestine discussions always seem to lead to bitter fighting on blogs, so I tend to avoid the issue entirely. But I’ll try to pick out some helpful stories on the conflict this morning.

From USA Today: Thousands flee Gaza as Israel ramps up offensive.

GAZA CITY — Thousands fled northern Gaza on Sunday as the Israeli military notified residents of an impending attack and its ground troops briefly crossed the border on a mission to destroy a launching site.

“Civilians are requested to evacuate their residences immediately for their own safety,” the leaflets dropped by air said, before listing specific areas that would “prove to be most dangerous.”

Israeli airstrikes hit more than 200 homes and buildings across Gaza on Sunday, bringing the death toll in the sixth day of the Israeli offensive Operation Protective Edge to 166 with more than 1,000 injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Despite calls from the United Nations and world leaders, there are no signs the two sides will agree to a cease-fire anytime soon.

“We don’t know when the operation will end,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Sunday. “It might take a long time.”

From the UK Guardian: Israel calls on residents to leave northern Gaza as death toll continues to spiral.

The death toll passed 160 on Sunday on the Palestinian side, with no Israeli fatalities reported. The United Nations called on Israel and Hamas to end hostilities. Instead the violence escalated with more exchanges of rocket fire from Gaza and missiles from Israel….

The military said four Israeli navy commandos were lightly wounded in a shootout with Gaza-based Hamas fighters as they carried out a raid to destroy a rocket launching site on Sunday morning. It marks the first time the sides have directly clashed since Israel began a devastating bombardment in response to rocket fire. Hamas said its fighters had fired at the Israeli force offshore, preventing them from landing.

Both sides have dismissed calls for a truce and Israel has continued to build up troops along the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground invasion.

So is this all-out war?

There has been little sign that either side is interested in an immediate end to the hostilities, which appeared to be ramping up over Saturday night….

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Friday that “no international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation which calls for our destruction”.

Hamas’s Haniya sounded a similar tone, saying: “[Israel] is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are [simply] defending ourselves.”

The latest conflict unfolded after last month’s kidnap and murder of three young Israelis in the occupied West Bank and the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.

What are we to think about this seemingly endless, unresolvable conflict? I gained a bit of insight from two posts at Tikkun by David Harris-Gershon.

From July 5, As a Jew living in America, the past week has changed me forever

Gershon writes that he was brought up by parents who were very liberal; at the same time he was taught to be loyal to the state of Israel and to believe that the Palestinians were evil.

As an adult, I’ve moved away from such naiveté while holding on to both my Zionist and progressive leanings, despite the growing struggle for coexistence between the two. And it’s not as though I’m mildly informed about the region or mildly invested in Israel and my Jewishness. The opposite, in fact, is the case. I’m a Jewish studies teacher at a day school, yeshiva-educated with a master’s degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I’ve authored a memoir about my experience with terror and reconciliation, and write extensively about the region, often critiquing Israel from a progressive perspective while maintaining my desire for a two-state solution to the conflict.

As an adult, I’ve learned about the cleansing of Arab villages which took place from 1947-1949 to make way for the Jewish state. I’ve learned about the ongoing settlement enterprise, the appropriation and bifurcation of Palestinian lands. I’ve learned the horrors of Israel’s decades-old occupation of the West Bank, about the suppression of basic human rights and the atrocities committed. I’ve studied Israel’s use of indefinite detentions, home demolitions, restrictions on goods and movement, and the violence visited upon those being occupied.

I’ve learned that – and this is just one example of many – a Palestinian child has tragically been killed every three days for the past 14 years. That bears repeating, since such deaths are rarely, if ever, given any attention in America: Palestinian parents have had to bury a child every three days for the past 14 years.

Knowing all this, I’ve still held fast to my ‘progressive Zionism,’ hoping Israel could become that beacon of liberalism I was presented as a child, a beacon which never truly existed in the first place, despite the country’s socialist roots. Why have I done so? For two reasons: 1) deep down, I still believe in the promise of Israel, and 2) I can’t shake the notion that a Jewish state is absolutely necessary for our security….

Gershon writes that he has worked with others to try to get Israel to change its warlike, even racist, policies, but with little success. he has come to the conclusion that the Israeli government has “little interest in peace.”

These realities have forced me to consider the incongruity between my American-borne progressivism and my Zionism. They have forced me to admit, like Peter Beinart, that in order to continue supporting Israel as a Jewish state, with everything it continues to do, I must compromise my progressivism.

However, the mind-numbingly horrific events of the past week have forced me, for the first time, to wonder whether such compromising can be sustained.

Smoke and fire rise above the skyline following an Israeli air strike on July 11 in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli warplanes kept up deadly raids on Gaza Friday but failed to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets across the border (NBC News).

Smoke and fire rise above the skyline following an Israeli air strike on July 11 in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli warplanes kept up deadly raids on Gaza Friday but failed to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets across the border (NBC News).

And from July 12, My Head Is Spinning as Gaza Burns: The Most Timely Book Review I’ve Ever Written

I was sitting in Philadelphia’s airport recently, awaiting a flight back home, the book I had been reading turned face down in my lap. Intentionally. I didn’t want anyone to see the cover. Didn’t want anyone to associate its cover with my views – these people I didn’t know, people I would never know.

I had just opened to the book’s second chapter – “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?” – and had closed it quickly. Shocked by the question. Shocked by my imagined (and false) notions of what a chapter with such a title might contain, by the prospect of a stranger seeing me reading it.

So I shut the book – Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine, which argues that only a bi-national state can justly end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and quickly hid it from those milling about.

Gershon goes on to discuss his recent epiphany about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

…recent, unspeakable events of the past two weeks have begun to make me question whether a two-state solution is even remotely possible anymore, particularly as Israeli officials begin embracing various one-state solutions.

Such internal questioning reached a climax on Friday, when Netanyahu explicitly stated that he wanted Israel to control the West Bank indefinitely, marking his first-ever public rejection of the two-state solution and Palestinian statehood.

My jaw dropped.

There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll check it out.

 

The famous reluctant handshake in Texas

The famous reluctant handshake in Texas

Now for President Obama’s supposed break-out.

From The Washington Post: ‘The bear is loose’: Is Obama breaking free or running away?

Bears, beer and horse heads: What exactly is going on with the leader of the free world?

On a single day this week in Denver, President Obama scarfed down pizza and drinks with strangers, shot pool with Colorado’s governor and shook hands with a guy on the street wearing a horse mask. His top staffers are promoting these stops on Twitter with the hashtag#TheBearIsLoose — a term one of Obama’s aides coined in 2008 when the candidate would defy his schedule.

More than five years into his presidency, Obama is trying to free himself from the constraints of office, whether by strolling on the Mall or hopscotching the country as part of a campaign-style tour. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer says the president “just wants to get out” and influence “our overall political conversation” by connecting with ordinary Americans.

But to some, breaking free can also look like running away.

Obama’s trip to Colorado and Texas this week took place against the backdrop of a burgeoning crisis on the Mexican border, where tens of thousands of children have been apprehended seeking entry into the United States. In Dallas, Obama dismissed the idea of heading farther south for a border visit as a “photo op” — not long after those photo ops showing him shooting pool and sipping beer in Denver.

Read more at the link. To me it looks like Obama is feeling freed up lately–mostly because he seems to be ignoring Republican nonsense and express his real opinions. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it feels that way to me.

fist bump

Obama’s latest photo-op came at an Austin, TX barbecue restaurant. From The Advocate: Texas Restaurant Worker Gets Gay-Supportive Fist Bump From Obama.

A gay employee at Franklin Barbecue in Austin had “a lucky day to be the register girl” Thursday, as he not only got to wait on President Obama but got a fist bump in support of LGBT rights.

Daniel Rugg Webb, a musician and comedian who works part-time at the restaurant, was on duty at the register as the president came up to pay for more than $300 worth of takeout, The Austin Chronicle reports. Webb slapped the counter and shouted, “Equal rights for gay people!” Obama asked, “Are you gay?” and Webb replied, “Only when I have sex.”

“That’s when he laughed and said, ‘Bump me,’” Webb told the Chronicle. Several onlookers photographed the fist bump and circulated the photo on Twitter. “It was just a lucky day to be the register girl,” Webb added.

From the Austin Chronicle via Buzzfeed:

Webb told the Chronicle:

“As a comedian, it was cool to have a moment where I was making a sitting president laugh — over something that might be considered inappropriate is a bonus,” Webb said of the experience.

He said he had been hoping to get in a joke about Texas Governor Rick Perry, who he described as “famously anti-gay.”

While Webb said he appreciates Obama’s social progressiveness, he expressed hope that the president will close the gap between his own relative forward-thinking on gay rights, and his general quietness on the anti-gay views of many state leaders before he leaves office.

“It would be interesting if he could call some people out for it. People can use a lot of things—religion, freedom of speech—to be anti-gay, but I need people to understand you can call people out for civil rights things,” Webb said.

“We are an anti-gay state. We are a state with a whole bunch of hungry children and sick old people, and [Rick Perry is] grandstanding on things that will get him a better election,” Webb said. “And it’s glaringly obvious. He’s kind of primitive in his social beliefs. I would like to see Rick Perry negatively influenced by any kind of attention. Even Obama laughing at something as, hopefully, acceptable as sexuality can show the difference.”

What do you think? Is Obama really changing?

What other stories are you following today? I have a few more news links, but I’ll post them in comments.