Tuesday Reads: What’s Wrong With the Secret Service?

Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the fence on the north side of the White House on Sept. 20 in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP)

Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the fence on the north side of the White House on Sept. 20 in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP)

Good Morning!!

What is going on with the Secret Service? There has been one scandal after another involving the agency during Obama’s presidency. In the past couple of days The Washington Post broke the news that not only did Omar Gonzalez, the Iraq war veteran who jumped over the fence and got into the White House on Friday, September 19 actually get deep into the White House before being apprehended, but also the Secret Service apparently lied about that and a previous White House breach.

Carol D. Leonnig reports: White House fence-jumper made it far deeper into building than previously known.

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.

An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds — often through the alarm boxes posted around the property — they must immediately lock the front door.

After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.

Gonzalez was tackled by a counterassault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Below is a diagram of Gonzolez’ pathway through the White House, from The Daily Telegraph.

floor_plan_3056162c

 

Leonnig also reported a few days ago on a 2011 incident in which a gunman shot at the White House with a semiautomatic rifle: Secret Service fumbled response after gunman hit White House residence in 2011.

The gunman parked his black Honda directly south of the White House, in the dark of a November night, in a closed lane of Constitution Avenue. He pointed his semiautomatic rifle out of the passenger window, aimed directly at the home of the president of the United States, and pulled the trigger.

A bullet smashed a window on the second floor, just steps from the first family’s formal living room. Another lodged in a window frame, and more pinged off the roof, sending bits of wood and concrete to the ground. At least seven bullets struck the upstairs residence of the White House, flying some 700 yards across the South Lawn.

President Obama and his wife were out of town on that evening of Nov. 11, 2011, but their younger daughter, Sasha, and Michelle Obama’s mother,Marian Robinson, were inside, while older daughter Malia was expected back any moment from an outing with friends.

Secret Service officers initially rushed to respond. One, stationed directly under the second-floor terrace where the bullets struck, drew her .357 handgun and prepared to crack open an emergency gun box. Snipers on the roof, standing just 20 feet from where one bullet struck, scanned the South Lawn through their rifle scopes for signs of an attack. With little camera surveillance on the White House perimeter, it was up to the Secret Service officers on duty to figure out what was going on.

Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. “No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down,” a supervisor called over his radio. He said the noise was the backfire from a nearby construction vehicle.

White House shooter Oscar Ortega-Hernandez

White House shooter Oscar Ortega-Hernandez

That was just the beginning of the “fumbled response.”

That command was the first of a string of security lapses, never previously reported, as the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate a serious attack on the White House. While the shooting and eventual arrest of the gunman, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, received attention at the time, neither the bungled internal response nor the potential danger to the Obama daughters has been publicly known. This is the first full account of the Secret Service’s confusion and the missed clues in the incident — and the anger the president and first lady expressed as a result.

By the end of that Friday night, the agency had confirmed a shooting had occurred but wrongly insisted the gunfire was never aimed at the White House. Instead, Secret Service supervisors theorized, gang members in separate cars got in a gunfight near the White House’s front lawn — an unlikely scenario in a relatively quiet, touristy part of the nation’s capital.

It took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence, a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.

Four days to figure out that bullets had struck inside the White House?! Unbelievable! And yet the White House came to the defense of the agency after Leonig’s report on the 2011 incident. From the LA Times:

“The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line for the president of the United States, his family and folks working in the White House every single day, 24 hours a day,” deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Their task is incredible and the burden that they bear is incredible.”

Blinken spoke in the wake of the publication of a story in The Washington Post about the Secret Service’s slow and confused response to the 2011 shooting. The gunman, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, was arrested for firing rifle shots at the White House from a nearby street.

Are officials afraid that Secret Service agents will be even more careless about the President’s safety if they are criticized? (Privately, the WaPo reported, President Obama and his wife Michelle were extremely angry after the shooting incident.) As for the “burden that they bear,” I guess that’s why agents have a history of drinking, carousing, and hiring prostitutes–to deal with all that stress? What if Obama or a member of his family had been wounded or killed during one of these security breaches?

At least some in Congress are taking the problem seriously. NPR reports, Secret Service Chief Faces Questions Over Breaches At White House.

The head of the U.S. Secret Service is in for a likely grilling from lawmakers today when she appears before a House committee to answer questions about the Sept. 19 security breach at the White House in which a man with a knife jumped a fence and made it inside the executive mansion before agents intercepted him.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will appear opposite members of the House Oversight Committee just as new information has come to light about the incident: The Washington Post reports that after jumping the fence, Omar Gonzalez made it past the front doors, overpowered a guard and then ran across the East Room before being tackled at the doorway to the Green Room.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the president and first family, who were not in the executive mansion at the time of the breach, are “obviously concerned” but have confidence in the Secret Service.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a member of the House Oversight Committee on Monday told The Associated Press that he’s “worried” that “over the last several years, security has gotten worse, not better.”

NPR’s Giles Snyder says while the fence jumper incident is likely to dominate the hearing, Pierson, who took over as Secret Service chief last year, is also expected to be questioned about a 2011 incident in which shots were fired at the White House.

Secret Service agents with President Obama on his arrival in Columbia in 2012

Secret Service agents with President Obama on his arrival in Columbia in 2012

The Daily Telegraph summarizes previous Secret Service screw-ups under Obama:

The American public first learned the phrase “wheels up party” in 2012. The term refers to agents’ often-drunken celebrations in a foreign country after a successful overseas trip by the President.

But during Mr Obama’s visit to Cartegena, Colombia, his bodyguards didn’t wait until the President had left town. Eleven agents were sent home after some allegedly drank and slept with prostitutes in the week leading up to Mr Obama’s visit. The Secret Service promised reform but a similar incident unfolded in Amsterdam in March when one agent was so drunk they passed out in a hotel hallway.

Less than a year after Mr Obama took office in 2009, he hosted a lavish state dinner for the Indian prime minister, inviting many of Washington’s most notable figures to attend.

But among the dignitaries were Michaele and Tareq Salahi, a Virginia couple who had dressed up for the event but had no invitation. They passed easily through the Secret Service cordon and photos later showed them smiling alongside Mr Obama and his top aides.

The ease with which the “party crashers” entered the White House exposed the Secret Service to ridicule but also raised serious questions about security.

Mr Obama is said to face an unprecedented level of death threats – both from right-wing extremists and Islamist militants – and the misfires by the Secret Service have dented the agency’s projection of invincibility.

Not that any of this irresponsible behavior by Secret Service agents is really all that surprising for those who remember history. There have been numerous reports of similar behavior before and during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Russ Baker wrote about it at his blog “Who What Why” after the Colombia incidents in 2012.

Go back almost half a century, and look at the most shocking dereliction of duty ever—the failures that made it easy for someone (or someones) to assassinate John F Kennedy. The failings are endless, from not insisting that the bubble top go on Kennedy’s car, to having too few Secret Service agents protecting the president, to authorizing a particularly dangerous route that slowed the car way down, to allowing it to go through a canyon of windows—and then not checking or securing the windows or installing spotters or sharpshooters. A grade school kid could have done a more serious job of protecting the president….

And yet we continue to let this agency off the hook. We forgot that even LBJ, a direct beneficiary of the agency’s sloppiness with his former boss, trusted the outfit so little himself that he inquired at one point whether he could have the FBI protect him instead.

No agent on rear bumper of JFK's limo.

No agent on rear bumper of JFK’s limo.

The history of racist attitudes in the Secret Service is also concerning, as Baker argues:

It is foolish to ignore the worldviews and attitudes of people expected to protect presidents. Former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden has described rampant racism and widespread contempt for Kennedy and his policies among Bolden’s fellow officers.

Now, here are a few salient details about the Secret Service today that go beyond trying to get a little “R&R”:  When Washington Post reporters visited the Virginia home of Texas native David R. Chaney, one of the Secret Service supervisors on the Colombia trip, they found a silver pickup truck parked in front. On the vehicle they spotted a bumper sticker with an outline of the state of Texas, and the word “secede.”

It is interesting to note that Chaney’s father served in the Secret Service when Kennedy was in office. As assistant agent in charge of personnel, he was friends with many of the agents who were in Dallas in November, 1963.

There’s much more at the link. Please read the whole thing.

There were also reports of drinking and carousing by Secret Service agents in Dallas the night before the assassination. Vince Palamara has spent years researching the Secret Service and the JFK assassination, and he published a book about it last year, Survivors’ Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy.

I know there is lots of other news, but I thought this story was worth a full post. So . . . what other stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday.

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: You People are so Ridiculous! Edition

Morning Coffee in the City, by Michele Byrne

Morning Coffee in the City, by Michele Byrne

Good Day!!

 

Hillary and Bill Clinton are grandparents!

From the AP via The Boston Globe:

The couple’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, has given birth to her first child, a daughter named Charlotte.

Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the former president and ex-secretary of state, announced the baby’s birth on Twitter and Facebook early Saturday, saying she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are ‘‘full of love, awe and gratitude as we celebrate the birth of our daughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky.’’

Clinton spokesman Kamyl Bazbaz said the child was born on Friday but did not immediately provide additional details. The couple lives in New York City. The Clintons quickly retweeted their daughter’s message on Twitter but did not immediately comment on the baby’s arrival.

Now that the announcement is out of the way, the media demands to know if Hillary will now announce she’s running for president.

The baby has been eagerly anticipated as Hillary Clinton considers her political future — she has called the prospect of becoming a grandmother her ‘‘most exciting title yet.’’ She even has picked out the first book she intends to read to her grandchild, the classic ‘‘Goodnight Moon.’’

She has said she didn’t want to make any decisions about another campaign until the baby’s arrival, pointing to her interest in enjoying becoming a grandmother for the first time. If Clinton decides to run for president, her campaign would coincide with the baby’s first two years.

Former-US-President-Bill-Clinton-Become-Grandfather

The Christian Science Monitor even put the demand in their headline to the AP story: Chelsea Clinton now a mom. Will Grandma Hillary announce run for president?

Sigh . . . Yes, I’m sure Hillary is planning to ruin their daughter’s and son-in-law’s celebration by rushing out and the media’s wish come true. Why don’t they hound Mitt Romney instead? He already has so many grandkids he probably can’t keep their names straight; and Ann Romney has been out and about in the past week.

Ann told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that if only Mitt had been elected in 2012, there wouldn’t have been so many problems in Iraq and Syria. According to Ann,

I think he would have had a status of forces agreement on — in Iraq. I don`t believe ISIS would have had the invasion that they have — they’ve had. They wouldn’t have had the ability to — I think he would have tried to arm the moderates in Syria. I think there`s other things that would have happened that would have made the equation a little bit tilted in our favor.

Those people are not going to go away. This is a generational problem. And the sooner we realize, I think, as Americans, that it`s not an easy solution and it`s not going to go away, but to be really aware of how dangerous the situation is — I think Mitt was very aware how — how precarious it was.

As for Mitt giving running for president a third try, Ann hinted that it will depend on what Jeb Bush decides to do.

One scenario out there, Mrs. Romney, is that Jeb Bush doesn`t run after all, and your husband has sized up the landscape and that a lot of his supporters, past and present, said, you have the name recognition, you have the Reagan example of the third time was the charm for him, and that it`s been done before.

[ANN] ROMNEY: Mm-hmm.

CAVUTO: And — and that would be appealing.

ROMNEY: Well, we will see, won`t we, Neil?

I think Jeb probably will end up running, myself. I think, you know, he — people probably are looking at it, that he`s probably looking at it very carefully right now.

CAVUTO: But why would his entrance in the race matter to — to your supporters or not?

ROMNEY: Well, I think, you know, he would draw on a very similar base that we would draw on.

Andrew Prokop at Vox thinks another Romney run could happen: It’s not crazy for Mitt Romney to run for president again. Prokop, reports that according to conservative columnist Bryan York, Jeb is unlikely to run in 2016.

“Romney is said to believe that, other than himself, [Jeb] Bush is the only one of the current Republican field who could beat Hillary Clinton in a general election,” York writes. So there seems to be at least one candidate who would definitively win Romney’s support.

But while there have been several trial balloons for a Jeb Bush candidacy floated recently, there are reasons to be skeptical he’ll actually pull the trigger. First of all, he’s been out of politics for years and focused on making money. For now, Bush has every reason to encourage speculation that he’s running. It gives him increased media attention, perceived clout, and it makes him more valuable as a speaker and rainmaker. But he’s at odds with the GOP base on issues like immigration and Common Core, and he’s suggested that concerns from his family could be an issue. So Bush might well opt against a run, and Romney could feel that he’s the party’s only hope.

After all, writes Prokop, Romney is a known quantity and he’s popular with GOP donors. On top of that, Chris Christie has lost his luster as a candidate.

Read more details at Vox.

AnnRomney2

But what about Mitt’s problems with women? Ann says that’s nonsense, according to Politico.

Ann Romney on Tuesday skewered Democrats’ claim that there’s a GOP “war on women,” calling the accusation “offensive” and saying it won’t work as a campaign tactic.

“It’s ridiculous, honestly, I mean I don’t think they’re getting very far with that, by the way. It’s not going to work. I think women are a lot smarter than that, and that’s kind of offensive to me, to tell you the truth,” Romney said in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News in response to a question about both the so-called “war on women” and DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s recent comments about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“Scott Walker’s a good guy, and he’s got a wonderful wife, and he values women and that just doesn’t fly,” Romney added.

She was responding to Wasserman Schultz’s remarks earlier this month, when the Florida Democrat said Walker “has given women the back of his hand.”

Well that’s the end of that then. Scott Walker’s wife (does she have a name) is “wonderful,” so women should just shut up and deal with having limited access to birth control, abortion, and child care, and lower pay than their male colleagues.

Wonkette responds to the Politico story with appropriate sarcasm: Ladies, Stop Offending Ann Romney With How Stupid You Are.

How many times does Her Royal Horse-Riding Majesty Ann Romney have to explain this to YOU PEOPLE? Sheesh! This so-called “war on women” claptrap Democrats can’t stop blah blahing about is so dumb and so 2012 and so not even real anyway, so why are women — who are so much smarter than Democrats think they are — so stupid as to keep falling for it?

Obviously, talking non-stop about the Republican Party’s non-stop assault on women will never work. Ann knows. She’s an elections expert. That’s why the gender gap in 2012 was only 18 points. Practically a draw! No wonder the whole Romney clan was so very shocked and awed that Ann’s 2012 pitch failed to sway the lady voters:

“Women, you need to wake up,” she urged them. “Women have to ask themselves who’s going to have and be there for you. I can promise you, I know, that Mitt will be there for you. He will stand up for you, he will hear your voices.”

Maybe it had something to do with how some of the things that spilled out of her face hole were kind of … oh, what’s the word? Offensive? Like when she said, “I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.” Those hard-working women out there were such an inspiration to her because she also had suffered and struggled and worked really hard at never having a job, scraping by on nothing but her husband’s daddy’s stock portfolio.

How the heck did that not work with voters?!? Especially after she told YOU PEOPLE to stop being so dumb already, jeez, and vote for her hubby. And some of YOU PEOPLE even whispered in her ear that you totally agreed with her (and yet did not vote for Mitt anyway, weird!), and even ladies who usually don’t worry their pretty little heads about important issues — that’s Man’s Work, after all — were finally, for the first time ever, thinking about really important stuff, like the economy and “their husbands’ jobs.”

AnnRomney1

For heaven’s sake, ladies. Mitt had all those binders full of women, remember? Now get over it and go vote Republican!

Of course Mitt wasn’t included in the Values Voters Summit this weekend. That could mean he’s not running or maybe that he thinks the Tea Party vote won’t matter. The usual suspects were there though.

Despite Ann’s claims that the Democrats are getting nowhere with the “war on women” talk, the “values voters” speakers appeared to tone down the anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage rhetoric, according to ABC News: Republicans Rallying Behind Religious Liberty.

Fighting to improve their brand, leading Republicans rallied behind religious liberty at a Friday gathering of evangelical conservatives, rebuking an unpopular President Barack Obama while skirting divisive social issues.

Speakers did not ignore abortion and gay marriage altogether on the opening day of the annual Values Voter Summit, but a slate of prospective presidential candidates focused on the persecution of Christians and their values at home and abroad — a message GOP officials hope will help unify a divided party and appeal to new voters ahead of November’s midterm elections and the 2016 presidential contest.

“Oh, the vacuum of American leadership we see in the world,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz declared Friday in a Washington hotel ballroom packed with religious conservatives. “We need a president who will speak out for people of faith, prisoners of conscience.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul echoed the theme in a speech describing America as a nation in “spiritual crisis.”

“Not a penny should go to any nation that persecutes or kills Christians,” said Paul, who like Cruz is openly considering a 2016 presidential bid.

The speaking program included such potential 2016 candidates as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Several possible Republican candidates — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush among them — did not attend. The group has positions on social issues across the spectrum — from the libertarian-leaning Paul, who favors less emphasis on abortion and gay marriage, to Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor whose conservative social values define his brand.

Jindal1

Here’s a lovely little homily from Bobby Jindal:

Jindal, who is also weighing a White House bid, seized on what he called Obama’s “silent war” on religious freedom.

“The United States of America did not create religious liberty,” Jindal said. “Religious liberty created the United States of America.”

Anyone know what he means by a “silent war?” I have no clue. What a charlatan Jindal is!

The ABC article didn’t mention Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, but they were there too.

From Mediaite on crazy Michele’s speech:  Bachmann Rouses Values Voters Crowd with Calls to ‘Kill’ ISIS Until They Surrender. See video at the link.

Talking Points Memo notes that Sarah Palin doesn’t know the address of the White House. I wonder who lives at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Palin Goofs: Truth Is Endangered At ‘1400’ Penn Avenue. Watch it:

I wonder if the “values voters” liked Palin’s biker chick get-up?

And, of course, Ted Cruz was his usual loony self. Salon: 5 craziest things Ted Cruz just said at the Values Voters Summit (including the full video of his “deranged” speech.

Morning Coffee, by Carol Bolt

Morning Coffee, by Carol Bolt

Quick News Headlines:

The Boston Globe, 7 Questions We’d Ask Ferguson’s Chief of Police.

A man set a fire at an air traffic control facility at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, but it’s not being called terrorism–maybe because the guy isn’t an Arab American?

KTLA Channel 5, FBI: Chicago Controller Sent Facebook Message: ‘I Am About to Take Out’ FAA Facility.

NY Daily News, Illinois man charged in fire at Chicago air traffic control center

The Texas State Board of Education is at it again. Now they want teachers to tell kids that Moses is an inspiration for the U.S. Constitution (very interesting and detailed article at The Daily Beast).

AP, via Yahoo News, Police: Woman beheaded at Oklahoma workplace.

 Fox News, Four College Sophomores dead in Oklahoma bus-truck crash.

Discovery News, Japanese Volcano Erupts: Hikers Missing.

The New Yorker on the newest social media entry, Ello’s Anti-Facebook Moment.

LA Times, Water on Earth predates the solar system, and even the sun.

Raw Story, Complex life on Earth may have appeared 60 million years earlier than previously thought.

National Geographic, Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap? A Yale historian wants us to rethink the terrible tales about the Norse.

M.I.T. News, Battling superbugs: Two new technologies could enable novel strategies for combating drug-resistant bacteria.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in comment thread. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Thursday Reads

Subway Riders, Francis Louis Mora, 1914

Subway Riders, Francis Louis Mora, 1914

 Good Morning!!

 

I suppose I have to cover the war news, although I’d much prefer to ignore it. So here goes.

First, the good news. According to The Washington Post, more than 60 countries have signed on with the “Anti-Islamic State Coalition.”

In his speech to the United Nations on Wednesday morning, President Obama said, “Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition.”

But on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said more than 50 nations have agreed to join the coalition. And in a document released by the State Department on Tuesday, 62 nations (including the European Union and the Arab League) are listed as providing support to the U.S.-led coalition.

The strongest allies in the coalition are those providing air support to the United States, while others are offering delivery services and some are providing humanitarian aid.

Click on the link above to read the list of countries providing air support, military equipment, and humanitarian aid. You can follow the latest developments in the fight against ISIL at The Guardian’s live blog.

Now the not-so-good news: a couple of op-eds that suggest the air war against the Islamic State militants is ineffective and/or counterproductive.

Reuters, Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media.

President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

The Internet has largely sustained the jihadist movement since 9/11. With this powerful tool, jihadists coordinate actions, share information, recruit new members and propagate their ideology.

Until the rise of Islamic State, extremist activity and exchanges online usually took place inside restricted, password-protected jihadist forums. But Islamic State brought online jihadism out of the shadows and into the mainstream, using social media — especially Twitter – to issue rapid updates on its successes to a theoretically unlimited audience.

In the same way that Islamic State’s land grab proved stunning, the group’s actions online have been deeply troubling. Up until a recent crackdown by Twitter, Islamic State’s presence on the site had grown tremendously — from a small one to a well-organized network with dozens of accounts.

Click the link to read all about it at Reuters’ “The Great Debate” page.

Reading the Newspaper. War News, by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

Reading the Newspaper. War News, by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

Jamie Dettmer at The Daily Beast argues that Obama’s Arab Backers May Draw the U.S. Deep Into the Mideast Quagmire. Detmer also discusses ISIL’s social media operation.

The backing from Gulf countries for the military intervention against militants of the so-called Islamic State in northern Syria, far from helping the United States in the battle for hearts and minds, may actually be hurting Washington in the region. And the reasons for that suggest just how densely complicated the Mideast quagmire has become.

While the participation of the super-rich Gulf monarchies in a coalition against the group widely known as ISIS or ISIL may help with some moderate Muslims, and may reassure European leaders, among those Islamists inside and outside Syria who are at the core of the opposition to President Bashar al Assad this development is viewed with deep suspicion.

“This has been labeled as a war against ISIS but it is a war against Islamic groups,” Tauqir Sharif, a British Islamist activist based in Idlib, Syria, told British Channel Four news Wednesday.

Already ISIS activists and jihadists sympathizers in the Gulf are leveraging their social media skills to fuel suspicions that the Americans are ready to give Assad a free pass and that the Sunni Muslims of Syria will be sacrificed with the connivance of the Gulf monarchies.

Much more at the Daily Beast link.

Suspect in Alleged Abduction of UVA Student Captured in Texas

I’ve been following the case of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham since Janicen posted about it about a week ago. The last person to be seen with Graham on surveillance footage was Jesse Matthew, 32, who worked as a nurses’ aid at the university. After police searched his car and apartment, Matthew came to the police station and asked for an attorney. He then drove away at a high speed and apparently disappeared. Police issued a warrant for his arrest for a traffic violation, but could not locate him. After more searches of his apartment, police upgraded the charge to abduction of Graham.

Last night, news broke that Matthew had been located in Galveston, Texas, and he is currently being held by police there. From the Associated Press, via ABC News, Suspect Captured but UVa Student Still Missing.

Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff’s authorities, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo announced Wednesday night.

The capture came less than a full day after police announced they had probable cause to arrest Matthew on charges of abduction with intent to defile Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore who went missing on Sept. 13 in Charlottesville.

Longo said an intense search for Graham continues.

“This case is nowhere near over,” he told a news conference late Wednesday. “We have a person in custody but there’s a long road ahead of us and that long road includes finding Hannah Graham.”

Longo said Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show that the search is focusing on rural and wooded areas around Charlottesville.

Matthew was captured at a beach in the sparsely populated community of Gilchrist around 3:30 p.m. after police received a call reporting a suspicious person, the Galveston County Daily News reported. The newspaper quoted Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset as saying a deputy responding to the call found a man who had pitched a tent on the beach with his car parked nearby. Trochesset said a check of the car’s plates revealed it was the vehicle sought in connection to the case. Authorities were trying to get a warrant to search the car, he added.

Reading the Morning Newspaper, Harry Herman Roseland

Reading the Morning Newspaper, Harry Herman Roseland

ABC News has more on how police located Jesse Matthew, Suspect in UVA Case Seen on Video Buying Bug Spray Before Capture.

Detectives investigating the case of a missing University of Virginia student were headed to Texas today after a man suspected in her disappearance was arrested after being caught on surveillance video there buying mosquito repellent a day before his capture….

The surveillance video from a convenience store in Galveston showed Matthew buying Off!, said the store’s owner, Dave Paresh.

“He asked me the question if it’s safe to stay on the beach, so I told him yeah, it’s good there,” Paresh, told ABC News station KTRK in Houston.

I guess there must be lots of mosquitoes on Galveston beaches right now.

Matthew appeared in court this morning, and was denied bail.

For anyone who thinks I shouldn’t write about “missing white girl” stories, violence against women is endemic in this country. It’s a bloodbath out there, with women being beaten (see the NFL scandal), raped, and/or murdered daily in this country; and I think it should be talked about. There truly is a war against women. Admittedly, the use of violence against women for entertainment should be discussed. Think about how many movies and TV shows center around the rape, torture, and murder of women. It’s important that real-life cases be seen as horrible crimes that involve agonizing suffering for victims, their families and friends.

Police Misconduct in the News

Speaking of violence against women, even police get into the act. Thank goodness they are often caught on video these days.

From The Christian Science Monitor, NYPD under fire for video of pregnant woman hitting ground.

New York City police officers are under investigation this week after a bystander used a smartphone to capture a particularly rough arrest of a Brooklyn woman five months pregnant.

The video shows the arrest of Sandra Amezquita, a Colombian immigrant and mother of four, who fell belly first onto the pavement as officers wrestled her to the ground and cuffed her hands behind her back. The incident occurred during an early morning melee Saturday in Sunset Park – a neighborhood sometimes called Brooklyn’s “Little Latin America,” since more than half its residents are Latino.

The video also shows another officer violently shoving an unidentified woman to the pavement as she stands near the arrest. Police simply issued Ms. Amezquita a summons for disorderly conduct, but the other woman, reported to be a friend, was neither arrested or accused of a crime.

Amezquita suffered vaginal bleeding after the incident. She was arrested for trying to interfere with police who were beating her son after they stopped and frisked him.

“It’s appalling,” said Sanford Rubenstein, Amezquita’s attorney. “It’s clear to me when an incident like this occurs you understand why police-community relations are at an all-time low,” he told The Associated Press.

The scuffle occurred after Amezquita and her husband, Ronel Lemos, attempted to intervene as police arrested and allegedly began to beat their 17-year-old son, Jhohan Lemos, who was accused of carrying a knife and resisting arrest around 2:15 a.m. on Saturday.

The elder Mr. Lemos was also arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer during the arrest of his son. Photos show the younger Mr. Lemos with his eye swollen shut and lacerations to his cheek and forehead following his arrest.

Reading the News at the Weavers' Cottage, 1673, Adriaen van Ostade

Reading the News at the Weavers’ Cottage, 1673, Adriaen van Ostade

In California, a 51-year-old woman won a lawsuit against the Highway Patrol after an officer beat her and it was caught on tape. Fox News reports:

A woman who was punched repeatedly by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer in an incident caught on film earlier this year will receive $1.5M as part of a settlement reached Wednesday.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow announced the settlement in an emailed statement and an attorney for 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock confirmed the deal to the Associated Press. The agreement was reached after nine hours of mediation in Los Angeles.

As part of the agreement, the officer who struck Pinnock, Daniel Andrew, will resign.  Andrew, who joined the CHP in 2012 and had been on paid administrative leave, could still be charged criminally in the case. The CHP forwarded the results of its investigation of the incident to Los Angeles County prosecutors last month, saying he could face serious charges but none have been filed yet.

There was another demonstration in Ferguson, Missouri on Tuesday Night after someone burned a memorial to Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The Christian Science Monitor asks,  Who burned Michael Brown memorial? Questions spark new Ferguson unrest.

Fresh unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Tuesday night shows that the embers of the month-old unrest surrounding Michael Brown’s death can be kindled by even tiny sparks.

Detectives are investigating how a makeshift memorial to Mr. Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9., burned early Tuesday morning. The memorial, which is one of two near where Brown died on Canfield Drive, included mementos and small candles that may have caused the fire.

But some in the area suggested that it’s “naïve” to think the fire was accidental, and about 200 protesters rallied to West Florissant Avenue again Tuesday, squaring off with police and looting for the third time a store called Beauty Town. There were media reports of looters yelling “Burn it down!” and of gun shots in the area near Canfield Drive. Police made five arrests.

Meanwhile, the DOJ is investigating the Ferguson Police Department.

Finally, there will apparently be no charges in the shooting of John Crawford III, who was shot by police while holding a toy gun in a Walmart. From Fox News, Grand jury issues no indictments in man’s fatal shooting at Ohio Wal-Mart.

Officers’ actions were justified in the fatal shooting of a man holding an air rifle inside an Ohio Wal-Mart store, a grand jury determined Wednesday —  using surveillance video the slain man’s family said shows the shooting was completely unjustified.

The Greene County grand jury opted not to issue any indictments in the Aug. 5 death of 22-year-old John Crawford III inside a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said.

A 911 caller reported Crawford was waving what appeared to be a rifle in the store. Police said he was killed after failing to obey commands to put down what turned out to be an air rifle taken from a shelf.

Since the shooting, Crawford’s family had demanded public release of the surveillance footage, a request denied until Wednesday by the state attorney general, who said releasing it earlier could taint the investigation and potential jury pool.

Video presented at a news conference by Piepmeier in Xenia shows Crawford walking the aisles, apparently on his cellphone, and picking up an air rifle that had been left, unboxed, on a shelf.

Crawford carries the air rifle around the store — sometimes over his shoulder, sometimes pointed at the ground — before police arrive and shoot him twice.

Would a customer have called 911 if Crawford hadn’t been a black man?

At the Miliners, by Edgar Degas, 1882

At the Miliners, by Edgar Degas, 1882

In Other News . . .

I’m running out of space, so I’ll end with some links to other stories that may pique your interest.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, FBI report shows mass shootings on the rise since 2000. We already knew this, but now there’s hard evidence.

Beta News.com, Five things to hate about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It bends!

And the new Apple IOS is messed up. From ComputerWorld, Apple yanks iOS 8 update after crippling iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Massachusetts GOP candidate for Governor is not endearing himself to women voters. Two op-ed pieces from The Boston Globe:

Charlie Baker needs an intervention on women, by Joan Vennochi

Charlie Baker’s ‘sweetheart’ problem, by Yvonne Abraham

Women, let’s all get out and vote for Martha Coakley. It’s high time Massachusetts had a woman as Governor!

So . . . what else is happening in the world? I’ll see you in the comments! Have a great day!


Tuesday Reads: Autumnal Equinox Edition

autumnal equinox

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

 

Today is 2014’s autumnal equinox, when day and night are equal in length. From now on, the days will get shorter and the nights longer, as we approach winter. Actually, autumn officially began in the Northern Hemisphere last night at 10:29 Eastern time.

From Sky and Telescope:

Astronomically speaking…the fall season…comes to the Northern Hemisphere on Tuesday, September 23rd at 2:29 Universal Time (10:29 p.m. EDT on Monday, the 22nd). At that moment, the Sun shines directly on Earth’s equator, heading south as seen in the sky. For us northerners, this event is called the autumnal equinox….

The apparent position of the Sun in our sky is farther north or farther south depending on the time of year due to the globe’s axial tilt. Earth’s rotational axis does not point straight up and down, like the handle of a perfectly spinning top, but is slanted about 23½° with respect to our orbit around the Sun.

Another way to think of this is that the plane defined by Earth’s orbit around the Sun (called the ecliptic) is tilted with respect to the planet’s equator. From our perspective, the Sun follows the ecliptic in its path through the sky throughout the year. Each day the Sun’s daily arc moves northward or southward, depending on the time of the year. To observers at northern latitudes (in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, for example), the Sun appears to sneak higher in the sky from late December to late June, only to drop down again from late June through late December. The equinox occurs when the Sun is halfway through each journey.

This axial tilt also produces our seasons. When Earth is on one side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped toward the Sun and receives more direct solar rays (and more daylight hours) that produce the familiar climes of summer. Six months later, when Earth is on the opposite side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped away from the Sun. The slanting solar rays heat the ground less and daylight is shorter, producing the colder winter season.

What else happens at the equinox?

Day and night are nearly the same length; the word “equinox” comes from the Latin aequinoctium, meaning “equal night,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, a poke around your almanac will show that day and night are not precisely 12 hours each, for two reasons: first, sunrise and sunset are defined as when the Sun’s top edge — not its center— crosses the horizon. Second, Earth’s thick atmosphere refracts the Sun’s apparent position slightly when the solar disk sits very low on the horizon.

The Sun rises due east and sets due west, as seen from everywhere on Earth; the equinoxes are the only times of the year when this occurs.Should you be standing on the equator, the Sun would pass exactly overhead at midday.

Were you standing at the North Pole or South Pole, the Sun would skim completely around the horizon.

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

The autumnal equinox marks the pagan festival of Mabon, “when livestock is slaughtered and preserved to provide enough food for the winter.” From Huffington Post,

Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

“Mabon is a time to reflect on the previous year, when we can celebrate our successes (likened to bringing in the harvest) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition,” the Los Angeles-based pagan leader Laurie Lovekraft told HuffPost.

The pagan website The White Goddess explains:

This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future. In the rhythm of the year, Mabon is a time of rest and celebration, after the hard work of gathering the crops. Warm autumn days are followed by chill nights, as the Old Sun God returns to the embrace of the Goddess.

The holiday is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.

Some pagans mark the holiday by enjoying rich feasts with seasonal foods like apples, pomegranates and root vegetables. Many also observe rituals honoring the goddess’transition from mother to crone.

Endless War News

The US (and some Arab allies) have carried out airstrikes in Syria. From The Guardian, US confirms 14 air strikes against Isis in Syria.

The most intensive barrage of air strikes launched against Islamic State (Isis) since the US fight against the terror group began last month thundered into northern Syria until after dawn on Tuesday, heralding a new phase of a war that Sunni regional powers have vowed to help lead.

Large explosions were reported in the group’s stronghold of Raqqa, in eastern Syria, as well as in Idlib province. There were unconfirmed reports that attacks had also taken place near Deir Azzor and western Aleppo.

A Pentagon statement said the 14 strikes against Isis targets were carried out with Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Jordan confirmed it its airforce had “destroyed a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terror acts inside Jordan” without making explicit reference to Syria.

More details from The New York Times (I’m unable to quote from the article), and from The BBC, 

The Pentagon said warplanes, drones and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, which targeted several areas including IS stronghold Raqqa.

Syria’s foreign ministry said its UN envoy was informed about the strikes against IS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Activists say at least 70 IS militants were killed in the strikes….

It said a total of 14 strikes destroyed or damaged IS training compounds, command and control facilities, vehicles and storage sites.

The US military will continue to conduct air strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, it added.

US Gen Martin Dempsey, America’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer, said the strikes were conducted to show IS militants they had no safe haven. “We certainly achieved that,” he told reporters.

Separately, Centcom said US forces also attacked a network of al-Qaeda veterans named Khorasan who had established a safe haven west of Aleppo and were plotting imminent attacks against the West.

Experts say members of the secretive group are believed to co-operate with al-Nusra Front – Syria’s al-Qaeda-affiliate – using its training bases and resources.

President Obama plans to speak about the Syrian strikes this morning at 10AM.

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Economics News

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued a new tax rules designed to prevent companies from moving operations out of the U.S. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Lew Tries to Limit Tax-Cut Deals With Inversion Crackdown.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s crackdown on inversions will get an immediate test as eight U.S. companies with pending deals decide whether to proceed — and other companies contemplating a foreign address now have to think twice.

That’s exactly what Lew had in mind.

“This action will significantly diminish the ability of inverted companies to escape U.S. taxation,” Lew told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “For some companies considering deals, today’s action will mean that inversions no longer make economic sense.”

The Treasury announcement heightened the tension between the government and companies considering obtaining a foreign address to lower their tax bills. Lew and President Barack Obama made clear that they were prepared to use rule-making authority to try stop some deals, even at the risk of a backlash from the companies and from Republicans, who already complained that Lew’s moves went too far.

A wave of inversions caught lawmakers’ attention this year when large companies such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) andWalgreen Co. (WAG) explored transactions andMedtronic Inc. (MDT), AbbVie Inc. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) moved forward with deals.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

Treasury officials took action under five sections of the U.S. tax code to make inversions harder and less profitable, removing some of the appeal that has made the transactions more common in recent years, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

In an inversion, an American company reincorporates for tax purposes in a tax-friendlier country such as the U.K. or Ireland, typically while maintaining much of their operations in the U.S. Most recent inversions sprang from mergers of a U.S. firm with a smaller foreign firm after regulatory steps taken during President Barack Obama’s first term curbed other types of inversions.

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

And from the AP via Bloomberg, Ahead of the Bell: Inversion rules sting stocks.

Shares of several companies stumbled Tuesday before markets opened and a day after the Treasury Department announced new regulations that aim to make it tougher to pull off overseas mergers and acquisitions that trim U.S. corporate tax bills.

The new measures attempt to keep companies from finding ways to access earnings from a foreign subsidiary without paying U.S. taxes, including “hopscotch” loans, in which companies shift earnings by lending money to the new foreign parent company while skipping over the U.S.-based company. Another rule change would make it harder for merged or acquired companies to benefit from lower foreign taxes by tightening the application of a law that says the American company’s shareholders must own less than 80 percent of the new, combined company.

About 50 U.S. companies have carried out moves known as inversions in the past decade, and more are considering it, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

An inversion happens when a U.S. corporation and a foreign company combine, with the new parent company based in the foreign country. For tax purposes, the U.S. company becomes foreign-owned, even if all the executives and most of its operations remain in the U.S. Inversions can help companies generate significant tax savings over time in part because the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, at 35 percent.

Awwwwwwww . . . too bad corporate bigwigs. I so don’t feel sorry for you.

Offbeat News

I have a few offbeat stories for you. The first one is especially for JJ. ABC News reports, ‘Little People, Big World’ Star Jeremy Roloff Is Married.

“Little People, Big World” star Jeremy Roloff, 24, married Audrey Mirabella Botti Saturday afternoon in Oregon.

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Jeremy’s twin brother, Zach, was his best man, while the bride wore a gown designed by Lauren Graebner of Eva’s by Reclamation, People magazine reports.

The bridesmaids wore flower crowns and Botti, 23, wore a larger crown designed by Vanessa Schmidt. Roloff wore a suit from ProperSuit, which he shared on social media.

More details, photos, and tweets at the link.

From the Leicester Mercury (UK), Pictures released of two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands found in Leicestershire.

Pictures were released today by the University of Leicester, showing two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands, which have been discovered.

The pair of skeletons, which are centuries-old and holding hands have been uncovered at a ‘lost’ chapel by archaeologists.

The Mercury reported last week that the remains, of a man and a woman, were found at the Chapel of St Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton.

It is believed the pair holding hands are of a similar age.

Whoever they were, the man and woman must have died at the same time.

Leading the project is professional archaeologist Vicky Score, of the University of Leicester, who works on the project during her holidays.

She said carbon-dating on nine skeletons uncovered since the dig began had revealed them to be from the 14th century.

“’We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave. The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there?” she added.

“There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton. This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time.”

See more photos at ABC News.

I found earlier articles about skeletons of couples embracing each other. From NBC News, Prehistoric Romeo and Juliet Discovered.

They died young and, by the looks of it, in love. Two 5,000-year-old skeletons found locked in an embrace near the city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale “Romeo and Juliet” have sparked theories the remains of a far more ancient love story have been found.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons dating back to the late Neolithic period outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona, the city of Shakespeare’s story of doomed love.

Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, because their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.

“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Another one from HuffPo, Skeletons ‘Embracing’ In Death May Represent Gruesome Ancient Siberian Custom.

For years researchers in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia have puzzled over dozens of ancient grave sites containing bodies buried face to face, some seemingly with hands clasped as if in an eternal embrace.

But soon DNA tests may help provide an answer to the key question: Are these the graves of star-crossed lovers, or could the remains be evidence of a gruesome ancient custom?

The bodies are part of a massive burial ground located in the Siberian village of Staryi Tartas, the Siberian Times reported. Altogether, close to 600 tombs have been discovered in the area, dozens of which contain the so-called “embracing” couples.

The graves are believed to belong to the Andronovo culture, which existed in the area during the second and first millennia B.C.E., according to Britannica. Yet many of the bodies in the graves are believed to be from the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries B.C.E., the Siberian Times reported….

“We can fantasize a lot about all this,” Vyacheslav Molodin, an archaeology and ethnography expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Siberian Times. “We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death.”

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: John Boehner and His “Knuckleheads,” Long-Lost Roman Fort, and Much More

The-Three-Stooges-three-stooges-56847_631_478

Good Morning!!

 

Did you hear about the speech John Boehner gave on Tuesday? He was talking to the International Franchise Association. He warned owners of  McDonald’sDunkin’ Donuts and other franchise businesses that Obama’s NLRB is out to destroy them. My goodness! If these one-percenters were forced to pay their employees something approaching a living wage, it would be a nightmare! From The Hill, Boehner warns biz: NLRB is ‘coming right at you’.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), lamenting the rise of “arrogant agencies” he said is threatening the American dream, warned the franchise industry on Tuesday that a politically motivated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is intent on unionizing its workers.

In brief but forceful remarks to the International Franchise Association, Boehner called the NLRB a “political horse,” controlled by Republicans when they occupy the White House and by unions when a Democrat is president.

“They’re going to do everything they can to try to change the rules and try to find a way to organize your businesses,” Boehner told the group.

He cited the NLRB’s recent finding that the McDonald’s corporation has joint-employer status, along with its franchises, over the chain’s thousands of workers.

The designation, if upheld, could force corporate managers to the table in collective bargaining discussions and expose them to claims of labor rights violations from workers at chain stores and businesses.

Horrors! Because everyone knows the American Dream is about a few rich assholes getting richer on the backs of millions of minimum wage workers who can barely feed their families.

But here’s the good part. During his remarks, Boehner complained about the Republican “knuckleheads” he has to deal with as Speaker of the House. The Hill reports:

“On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,” he said. “You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”

As a result, Boehner claims he only has a “paper majority.”

A group of the most conservative Republicans has frequently plagued the Speaker and upended plans for votes, most recently in July when GOP leaders were forced to pull a vote on their bill responding to thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.

In April, Boehner mocked some members of his conference for being reluctant to vote on immigration reform. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,’ ” he said.

Boehner added in his comments on Tuesday that “dealing with Democrats is one thing, dealing with the knuckleheads is another.”

stooges1

At Salon, Jim Newell comments on Boehner’s “knucklehead problem.”

A specialized sort of barometric collapse hit Washington, D.C., last night: a sudden knowledge that the capital’s stocks of Merlot and unfiltered cigarettes had been depleted, and Speaker John Boehner was turning surly. And the target of his abuse, yet again, were the very specimens over whom he attempts to leverage power: the House Republicans conference.

Boehner, speaking to the International Franchise Association (read: people who don’t want to pay their fast-food workers more), described the House majority over which he lords as a “paper majority,” and then went on to label a dissident faction within his conference as “knuckleheads.” ….

Newell mentions Boehner’s complaint about House Republicans who are afraid to vote for an immigration bill (see above in The Hill piece), and an earlier rant by the Speaker from 2012.

“We got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here, and some of the dumbest. We got some of the best people you’d ever meet, and some of the raunchiest. We’ve got ‘em all.”

Why don’t Democrats pull together a bunch of these Boehner quotes and use them in the Midterm campaigns, Newell asks. As for Speaker Boehner,

Why was Boehner insulting members of the House GOP less than two months ahead of an election? Because he’s a strange dude, for starters. Gets his Irish up sometimes, as Paul Ryan would say. But Boehner’s comments were also part of an elaborate pitch to the assembled franchisees to elect more House Republicans this November. He has a “paper majority” in which a few wiseacres can separate themselves from the herd and force the House leadership to pull legislation from the floor. Pity the speaker.

It’s a midterm election cycle in the sixth year of the Obama administration, so the odds are that any new members added to the speaker’s Republican roster this November will be natural fits for the Knucklehead Caucus. The problems Boehner has had (not) moving pieces of legislation these past four years won’t go away, because they’re problems with Boehner’s leadership style. He’s too tentative to threaten the knuckleheads’ committee assignments and access to party campaign cash. He’s abandoned earmarks. And his members know that, except in a handful of cases, his threats to pass legislation with Democratic votes are bluffs. The new knuckleheads will find him just as easy to roll as the previous ones have.

We’ve talked many times here about the differences between liberals and conservatives, and how hard it is for us to understand right-wingers’ thought processes. Well, did you know that liberals and conservatives even smell different?

bad smell

From The Washington Post, Study: Liberals and conservatives sniff out like-minded mates by body odor.

According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Political Science, people can literally sniff out ideology — and this may explain why so many couples share political beliefs. Or, as the study’s title says, “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues.”

Researchers led by Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott found that, to a small but significant degree, people prefer the body odor of those who vote as they do.

Previous studies showed long-term mates are more similar when it comes to politics than anything else besides religion. Researchers set out to determine whether this is a purely socially driven phenomenon, or whether biology plays a role.

To test the link between smell and party affiliation, researchers rounded up 146 people aged 18 to 40 from “a large city in the northeast United States.” They used a seven-point scale to determine where they fell on the political spectrum. They sent 21 of these —10 liberals and 11 conservatives — home with fragrance-free soap and shampoo and a gauze pad taped to their armpit. The subjects were told not to smoke, drink, use deodorant or perfume, have sex, eat fragrant foods, sleep with people or pets or linger near strong odors.

They returned the stinky armpit pads 24 hours later. Then 125 participants sniffed the stinky pads, taking a break between whiffs to cleanse their nasal palate with the aroma of peppermint oil. The sniffers, who never saw the people whose smells they were evaluating, then rated the attractiveness of each armpit sample on a 1 to 5 scale.

The subjects found the smell of those more ideologically similar to themselves more attractive than those with opposing views.

Read about the conclusions researchers drew from these results at the WaPo.

Gernsheim_2

How about some archaeology news? German archaeologists have discovered a “long lost Roman fort.” dating to the 1st Century. From Science Daily:

In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers (known as a cohort) was stationed there between 70/80 and 110/120 AD. Over the past weeks, the archaeologists found two V-shaped ditches, typical of this type of fort, and the post holes of a wooden defensive tower as well as other evidence from the time after the fort was abandoned.

An unusually large number of finds were made. This is because the Roman troops dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches when they left. In the process they disposed of a lot of waste, especially in the inner ditch. “A bonanza for us,” according to Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel from the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology. “We filled box after box with shards of fine, coarse and transport ceramics; dating them will allow us to determine when the fort was abandoned with greater accuracy than was possible before.”

Up until now, little was known about Roman Gernsheim, even though findings from the Roman era have been cropping up here since the 19th century. “Previously, the only thing that seemed certain based on the finds was that an important village-like settlement, or “vicus,” must have been located here from the 1st to the 3rd century, comparable with similar villages which have already been shown to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg or Ladenburg,” explained dig leader Dr. Thomas Maurer. He has been travelling from Frankfurt to South Hessia for years and has published his findings in a large publication about the North Hessian Ried during Roman imperial times.

“It was assumed,” continued Maurer, “that this settlement had to have been based on a fort, since it was customary for the families of the soldiers to live outside the fort in a village-like settlement.” “We really hit the jackpot with this excavation campaign,” said a delighted Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel. “The results are a milestone in reconstructing the history of the Hessian Ried during Roman times.” For almost 20 years now, von Kaenel has been studying this area with the help of his colleagues and students using surveys, digs, material processing and analyses. The results have been published in over 50 articles.

Read the rest at the link.

Jonathan Dwyer arrest

There was more bad new for the NFL yesterday. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer (pictured in cuffs at right) was arrested for two domestic violence incidents that happened in July. Dwyer reportedly attacked his wife and caused a bone fracture in one incident, and in the other he threw a shoe at his 18-month old son. He is also charged with preventing his Kayla from calling 911 for help. Fortunately, Kayla immediately took the child and left the state. The New York Daily News reports, Arizona Cardinals shut down running back Jonathan Dwyer over domestic violence charges.

Police said Dwyer hit his wife, causing a fracture. It was not immediately clear if the shoe hit their baby, Jonathan Jr.

Officers went to Dwyer’s home on July 21 after neighbors reported a domestic disturbance. His wife brushed cops off, but later told detectives Dwyer was there when authorities were looking for him, but hid in a bathroom until police left.

The following day, Dwyer snatched a cell phone from his wife’s hand and threw it from the second floor of their home to prevent her from calling the cops, Crump said.

Dwyer is also accused of sending his wife text messages threatening to harm himself if she reported the assaults.

The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer. They really had no choice after what happened with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson.

“We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “Given the serious nature of the allegations we have taken the immediate step to deactivate Jonathan from all team activities.”

One local Boston sports station has nominated Dwyer for “biggest asshole in the NFL.” I’ve been listening to the two Boston sports stations and ESPN radio quite a bit, and I’ve been really heartened by the reactions of the male program hosts and callers. One host said yesterday that he had read a parenting book over the weekend. He has never hit his kids, but he was so shocked by Adrian Peterson’s reported behavior that he wanted to know more about good parenting. Another host said that he had been beaten as a child, and for the first time he has begun to understand that his parents abused him.

Gloria Allread press conf

Also yesterday, attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference in Atlanta with the best friend and the father of Rasheeda Watley, a survivor of abuse by Chicago Bears player Brandon Marshall and called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step down. WSB TV Atlanta:

At a news conference Wednesday, Allred detailed the case of Rasheeda Watley, who claimed then-boyfriend Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos had physically abused her….

Allred was joined by Watley’s father and best friend, who both said they reported the abuse to the NFL and Goodell but nothing was done.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of family violence issues has come under fire in recent weeks after a video was released showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer twice inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February.

Allred said the investigation process is flawed within the NFL organization and it needs to change.

“Our focus is on the process and we want the process to be fair. We want the investigation that is conducted in the future, investigations, of NFL players to afford due process to victims as well as NFL players,” Allred said. “The present process is obviously not fair.”

According to Watley’s father, no one from the NFL even talked to himself, his daughter, or any witnesses of the abuse.

I need to wrap this up, but I want to mention one more article from Bloomberg Businessweek, Roger Goodell at the 50-50 Yard Line. It’s a fairly long read that explains why Goodell’s job is not yet on the line. He has made tons of money for NFL owners, and–let’s face it–money is all they really care about.

So . . . what else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!


Extra Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Morning (Just Barely)!!

 

Father and Son, Bryce Brown

Father and Son, Bryce BrownGood Morning!!

The NFL domestic violence news is even worse this morning than it seemed yesterday. It turns out the child that Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson beat up is only four years old. And TMZ has published photos of some of the wounds.

The report had been that the child was hit with a “switch,” but according to TMZ, it was a belt. A four year old child! Peterson should never be allowed to see his children again without a very large social worker present. TMZ live updates:

4:12 PM PT — According to the police report, Peterson allegedly sent text messages to the child’s mother saying he “felt bad” because he struck the kid in the testicles.

“Got him in the nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed!” the text said.

Peterson allegedly sent a follow up text saying, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has he biggest heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

4:10 PM PT — According to the police report, the child told authorities he had also been hit by a belt and there were “a lot of belts in daddy’s closet.”

The child also said AP had put leaves in his mouth when he was being struck and that his pants were down.

3:50 PM PT — The Vikings have deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game….

3:00 PM PT — The police report on the case includes photos of cuts on the boy’s thigh and hands. He also had bruises on his lower back and buttocks, and according to the report … Peterson admitted punishing him.

Photos of injuries to Adrian Peterson's son.

Photos of injuries to Adrian Peterson’s son.

The child may have been confused about the weapon he was attacked with, because police report that it was a tree branch (AKA a “switch.”) The child’s mother told police that several of the wounds were still bleeding when the child arrived at home in Minnesota.

Peterson will not be playing against the New England Patriots today, but why hasn’t he been suspended by the team and the league? He was arrested and charged back in May!

Gary Myers writes in The New York Daily News, Roger Goodell should throw Adrian Peterson out of the NFL for the Vikings RB’s alleged acts of child abuse.

This might be the worst week in the history of the NFL, with another despicable act by a privileged player taking Roger Goodell’s league to an unfathomable low.

Could it get any worse than the elevator video that surfaced Monday of Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer with a vicious punch to the face? Apparently it can with the indictment Friday of Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson, one of the faces of the NFL, for injuring his 4-year-old son by spanking him with a tree branch in May after removing the leaves. A warrant has been issued for Peterson’s arrest.

Goodell can begin to make up for his mishandling of the Rice case by immediately suspending Peterson for the season and then throwing him out of the league. Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, issued a

statement saying Peterson used the same type of discipline on his son that he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas, as if that condones pulling the boy’s pants down and inflicting cuts and bruises doctors found all over the little boy’s body.

It’s barbaric.

It certainly is. Texas authorities should throw the book at Peterson. Get this, according to Myers, the punishment was for the four-year-old pushing another one of Peterson’s children away from a video game. For that, this small child was beaten with a tree branch. And Peterson doesn’t believe what he did was wrong! In my opinion, no one should ever hit a child. Period. Hitting a child isn’t effective in changing behavior in the first place, and in the second place, violence against children only perpetuates the generational cycle of violence. If we are ever to be a truly civilized society, we must work together to change the idea that it is okay to hit children.

Father and child, Cbabi Bayoc

Father and child, Cbabi Bayoc

According to Myers, Roger Goodell doesn’t have to wait for a conviction to discipline Peterson.

One of the circumstances that allows Goodell to punish Peterson is “conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”

The Vikings at least deserve credit for doing the right thing and deactivating Peterson for Sunday’s home opener against the Patriots, which pretty much eliminates any chance they had to win the game. They value common decency over winning. If Goodell doesn’t suspend Peterson, the Vikings should deactivate him every week.

Regardless of what he decides to do now that the photos and police report have been made public, it’s time for Goodell to step down.

Rant over for now.

I need to take a few deep, cleansing breaths . . . .

 

Ferguson Updates

CNN has  released new video of two witnesses reacting right after the Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

(CNN) — Two men, shocked at what they saw, describe an unarmed teenager with his hands up in the air as he’s gunned down by a police officer.

They were contractors doing construction work in Ferguson, Missouri, on the day Michael Brown was killed.

And the men, who asked not to be identified after CNN contacted them, said they were about 50 feet away from Officer Darren Wilson when he opened fire.

An exclusive video captures their reactions during the moments just after the shooting.

“He had his f**n hands up,” one of the men says in the video….

The men didn’t see the beginning of the altercation, but:

“The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” the man said.

That same witness described the gruesome scene, saying he saw Brown’s “brains come out of his head,” again stating, “his hands were up.”

The video shows the man raising his arms in the air — just as, he says, Brown was doing when he was shot.

The other contractor told CNN he saw Brown running away from a police car.

Brown “put his hands up,” the construction worker said, and “the officer was chasing him.”

The contractor says he saw Wilson fire a shot at Brown while his back was turned.

I wonder if the grand jury is hearing from any of the witness that the media has located?

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and his son Robert Kelso Cassatt, by Mary Cassatt

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and his son Robert Kelso Cassatt, by Mary Cassatt

The Houston Chronicle reports that there is a New focus on minority voting after Brown’s death.

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A few miles from the street where Michael Brown died is the grave of Dred Scott, a slave who went to the Supreme Court and tried, unsuccessfully, to be recognized as a free American citizen.

One hundred and fifty-seven years later, a white police officer’s fatal shooting of Brown — unarmed, black and 18 years old — raises fresh questions about the extent to which blacks in suburban towns are regarded as full partners by the officials and law enforcers elected largely by and responsive to small segments of the population.

Political participation is increasing on the national level for blacks and Hispanics. On the local level, voting continues to be struggle, as it is in this St. Louis suburb.

In the most recent city election in April, only 1,484 of Ferguson’s 12,096 registered voters cast ballots, easily re-electing the mayor. Next year voters can weigh in again on their municipal government through city council elections.

Nationally, only 1 in 4 four voters turns out for mayoral elections in the largest cities, according to a 2013 study of 340 mayoral elections in 144 cities from 1996 to 2012 by Thomas M. Holbrook and Aaron C. Weinschenk of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Missouri does not ask about race or ethnicity on its voter registration forms. But roughly two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black. The police force is predominantly white. Five of Ferguson’s six city council members are white, as is the mayor. The grand jury investigating the Brown case has six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man.

#Gamergate

I don’t know if anyone else is following “Gamergate,” the controversy of on-line attacks on women who design and write about video games. Recently feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats from male gamers who were enraged her video blogs. Yesterday The Guardian published an article about another female game creator, Zoe Quinn.

Zoe Quinn on Gamergate: ‘We need a proper discussion about online hate mobs,’ by Alex Hern

Since late August Zoe Quinn, the developer of indie gaming’s critical hit Depression Quest, has been the target of a campaign that saw her Tumblr hacked, address posted online and terrifyingly plausible plans to cripple her laid out with cold-blooded straightforwardness….

In public the rationale for this was the allegation that Quinn lay at the centre of a network of corruption in videogaming that saw personal favours traded to elevate a network of her friends with controversial ideas about gaming above “true” gamers.

In private the rationale was simpler. Quinn was an example of a “social justice warrior”: a critic of games culture interested in opening the medium to audiences including women, queer people and people of colour. Her persecutors discussed how best to fulfil the aim of driving “SJWs” from gaming while maintaining the pretence that the campaign was about corruption.

One of the problems with using an anonymous platform to orchestrate your hate campaign is that you can never quite be sure who is listening. On 6 September, the inhabitants of a chatroom called #Burgersandfries learned this themselves.

The site was where a small collection of gamers linked to /v/, the videogame subforum of notorious image board 4chan, met to organise their “raids” on Quinn.

What they didn’t know was that Quinn was watching.

You probably need to read the whole story to understand the dynamics of this issue, so head over to The Guardian if you’re interested.

Father and child, Ben Shahn

Father and child, Ben Shahn

Oscar Pistorius Verdict

I hate to keep posting so much about violence against women, but that is what is in the news this week. After the Oscar Pistorius verdict, ABC News spoke to Pistorius’ former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor: Oscar Pistorius’ Ex-Girlfriend: ‘It Could’ve Been Me’.

Taylor said she dated Pistorius before he began dating Steenkamp. At his murder trial, Taylor served as a valuable witness for the prosecution. She said parts of Pistorius’ story about what happened the night Steenkamp died did not ring true.

“There were things that didn’t match up to my experience staying at his house,” she said.

For example, while Pistorius claimed during his testimony the bedroom was pitch black so he didn’t see Steenkamp go to the bathroom, Taylor said Pistorius did not typically keep his room that dark.

“He usually slept with the curtains fairly open. He always had some light coming in,” said Taylor.

And although Pistorius did startle easily, Taylor said he would always ask her about any sudden noises and found it odd that he said he didn’t make physical contact with Steenkamp the night she was killed.

Taylor said she was just 17 years old when she first met the then 24-year-old Pistorius at a rugby match in 2010.

“When I met him, I actually didn’t know who he was,” Taylor said. “He was very charming. He is a really good guy, you know. He was very respectful, very kind.”

But over time, Taylor said Pistorius would get angry at her for little things, such as not taking her plate to the kitchen, and that he could be jealous and possessive.

“He used to often look through my phone, ask me who my friends were. I think he had that control over who’s in my life and who’s not,” she said. “I was his.”

According to Taylor, Pistorious always carried a gun, and once when she was in a car with him, he shot a gun out of the sunroof.

Father and child,

Father and child, Buwa Shete

A few more headlines, links only

BBC News, Spinosaurus fossil: ‘Giant swimming dinosaur’ unearthed.

The Boston Globe, The Northern Lights Shined on New England in Incredible Color Last Night.

The Guardian via Climate Central, Climate Change Threatens Half of North America’s Birds.

Will Scotland vote for independence from Great Britain? The Wall Street Journal, Severing Scotland From U.K. Is No Easy Task.

USA Today, Pa. police: 1 trooper dead, another injured in shooting.

National Post, Ukraine repels rebel attack on key Donetsk airport, as more than 200 trucks from Russia deliver aid.

The Washington Post, U.S.-led coalition seeks to exclude Iran from fight against Islamic State.

Raw Story, Jerry Seinfeld questions Bill Maher: ‘What do you care’ if Hillary Clinton’s running or not? (Maher says he’ll vote for Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton.)

What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Thursday Reads

War, Pablo Picasso

War, Pablo Picasso

Good Morning!!

Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.

 

Reactions to Obama’s speech

From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.

President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.

In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.

“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”

In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.

According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso's Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso’s Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.

Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.

In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.

At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.

Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.

 

It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

A couple more interesting stories to check out:

Imran Kahn at Aljazira, Iraq and the Obama plan: Officials and experts broadly welcome US president’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group, but with crucial caveats.

Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.

 

Violence Against Women News

From Picasso's War, a commentary on race hatred

From Picasso’s War, a commentary on race hatred

I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.

The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter.  The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.

In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.

“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.

She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.

On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.

The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.

That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.

The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.

The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.

ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.

Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.

One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.

“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.

The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.

“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.

“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”

There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.

A few more links:

NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?

SB Nation, Ray Rice speaks out for the first time since his release.

CBS Sports, Ray Rice’s wife: How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid.

NYT, In Ray Rice cast, NFL sees only what it wants to see.

 

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Other News, Links Only

AP, USIS, the contractor that handled Edward Snowden’s security clearance loses federal contract.

BBC News, Michael Brown death: Ferguson highway protest blocked.

The Guardian, Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more.

The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.

ABC News, Five things that may happen if Scotland votes for independence.

Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.

Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.

HNGN, Baboons With Closer Friends Have Longer Lives Than Loners.

Forbes, Scientists find gene that may delay aging of whole body.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.

 

Peace, Pablo Picasso

Peace, Pablo Picasso