Wednesday Reads: Something Else Beyond Denial

f439b0d8b79ea9da013188b573a9599bThere must be a thing, something beyond denial, that people with all sense and reason experience. Beyond comprehension it seems. Beyond explanation. Even now as I write these words…the mind and heart do not move forward and process the thing I was told last Friday.

“…is HIV Positive, he has had HIV for over 11 years…”

My Uncle. My fabulously “gay” uncle. Who is only 18 months older than me.

HIV for 11 years. No. Why couldn’t he tell me. (He did not tell his sister for the first three years.) He is too smart to be so foolish…he knew to take care of himself. No, we’ve already made it past the late 80s and 90s, he got through that fine. (I suppose.) No. He would never get HIV. I knew the truth. He was my secret super hero….

You see, my uncle was on his way to an emergency room, there was something wrong internally. My Aunt was worried, she had to let me know the whole story.

7d45fe82cc4e42b6e3198ac8f8449978Sigh…

My Aunt told me this on Friday, even she said her timing was shitty. She felt that it was something he should’ve told me on his own, face to face, but with the emergency situation at hand, she thought it was best I knew everything.

It was during a big lunch that included ten of my kids’ friends…my friend Cindy, my daughter’s boyfriend’s mother (it was our first meeting) and his two younger brothers and the rest of our circus of a family…but I could not react like I wanted to.  The boyfriend caught my aunt holding me up near the Honey Baked Ham…he knew something had happened. He told Bebe, but she saw how well I hid everything and didn’t think anything was wrong. When the shit hits the fan as much as it does, you get used to the splatter.

Well, that crowd finally left, and I could act like a normal human being and fucking cry and sob uncontrollably, it still did not seem real to me.

JD could not have HIV, we 0169fa3d747a227943a11d45e7201e87were beyond the point of concern. I thought he was safe…I mean…The idea that he could even get it was out of the question. To me he was like “Super Fag” (and I don’t mean that in any derogatory way).  He was invincible, and impervious to any disease. Like his t-cells had some super human power to withstand any viral attacks from evil outside forces.  All he needed was a little super “Fagsuit” with a rainbow cape and a catchy theme song or memorable send off line…

You must understand this. JD is wonderful, funny, talented and loving. He is such a special, good person.

He is still invincible to me because even now I can’t get past this.  I cannot process this information.  My mother, father, husband….they all said it was something they expected…no surprise.

But for me, it fucking hit me out of nowhere.

Still.

How do you describe this feeling? This emotion…I am not in denial. I know that he has HIV. But the words do not register in my brain, and they certainly do not register in my heart.

After a weekend of worry, waiting for a diagnosis, it turns out to be an abdominal abscess. He does not realize how bad this thing really was, he had some special type of IV that pumped the heavy duty antibiotics directly into his aorta.  Scary stuff.  He went home yesterday evening. I am so thankful for this.

Next step is talking to JD on the phone, he is glad that I know and sorry he did not tell me himself when we saw each other the last time 5 years ago…during my Nana’s memorial. But I can hear the tears in his voice on the message he left me today.  What can I say to him? All I want to do is hug him and make him laugh…like he always makes me laugh. I love him so much.

Boston Boomer told me that writing about this might make me feel better, I don’t know, it is all still numbing to me. Don’t take offense to the cartoons, I needed something funny to contrast what my return post was focused on, my humor is a twisted sort of way…but then you all know me so well.

Now for a quick group of links.

Thank you BB and Dak for covering for me these past couple weeks. I love you both so very much. ;)

Jake is still all over the place on his sugar levels, but yesterday he started his first job. I only hope they are more supportive of diabetics than this employer out in California.

Walgreen’s tab for ADA violation: $180k and a bag of chips

Josefina Hernandez worked as a cashier at a California Walgreens store for 18 years. About five years into her tenure, she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a condition she reported to her employer.

In the 13 years that Hernandez worked for Walgreens after being diagnosed with diabetes, Walgreens allowed Hernandez to keep candy nearby in case of low blood sugar, keep her insulin in the break room refrigerator and take additional breaks to test her blood sugar or eat because of her diabetes.

In that 13-year time period, there was only one time when Hernandez asked to take an additional break to eat food because of low blood sugar. Apparently, the accommodations provided by Walgreens were working out just fine.

But then came the famous Chip Theft of 2008.

Hernandez was returning items in a shopping cart to shelves when she noted she was shaking and sweating from low blood sugar. She didn’t have any candy with her and was in the magazine aisle, so she opened a $1.39 bag of potato chips that was in the cart and ate some of them.

After 10 minutes, when she started feeling better, Hernandez said, she went to pay for the chips at the cosmetic counter (where she had been instructed to pay for store items) but no one was there. Hernandez put the potato chips under the counter at her cash register and returned to restocking items. She later paid for the chips when her cashier duties were finished.

Seems reasonable right? However, her manager sounds like he votes Republican.

An assistant store manager spotted the chips and asked whose they were. Hernandez said the chips were hers. The assistant manager reported Hernandez to the store manager for taking the chips.

After meeting with store management,  Hernandez was suspended and then terminated for violating the store’s “anti-grazing” policy.

According to court testimony, Walgreens officials said the company incurs significant losses from employee theft, estimated at exceeding $350 million per year. In order to combat the problem, Walgreens has a strict policy against employee theft in the form of “grazing” — eating food merchandise without paying for it first — that applies to all employees.

The store manager testified he was “absolutely certain” about terminating Hernandez because she took the chips in violation of company policy, and that he believed there was no “gray area” or “discretion” under Walgreens’ policy.

You can read the details of the settlement here:  America’s Largest Drug Store Chain to Pay $180,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – JDSupra

Drugstore giant Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a longtime employee with diabetes and to implement revised policies and training to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

[...]

Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer.  After an investigation by EEOC investigator Carlos Rocha, and after attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Walgreen Company, Case No. CV 11-04470) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

On Apr. 14, U.S. District Judge William Orrick noted that “Walgreen has failed to allege any misconduct that is unrelated to her disability,” and denied Walgreens’ motion for summary judgment.  At this hearing, Walgreens’ own legal counsel acknowledged Hernandez as a long-term valued employee with a very good track record, and described her termination as a “harsh result” perceived by the EEOC as unfair.

“Not only was this harsh and unfair, but it was illegal, and that’s why the EEOC sued to correct this wrong,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo.  “People may think this case revolves around theft, but the real issue is how a company responded to a valued 18-year employee, whom it knew for 13 years to be diabetic, and who attempted to pay for the chips after she recovered from her hypoglycemic attack.”

Wow, good for Josefina! At last some good news about the “little” guy beating the big company assholes.

The rest of today’s links in dump fashion:

Tom Petty is stepping up to the mic:

Tom Petty Isn’t ‘Playing Dumb’ About Church Sex Abuse Scandal on New Song | Billboard

Tom Petty Talks Religion: ‘No One’s Got Christ More Wrong than the Christians’ | Mediaite

Over in Britain they are asking why here in America are there so many Hot car deaths: The children left behind

Sticking with children for a bit longer.

The brown babies are getting a brown senator worked up: (But I guess Cuban is the “good” sort of brown?)

Rubio: U.S. Cannot Admit All Children Seeking Asylum : The Two-Way : NPR

Anti-Immigration Activist: Public Execution Would Be ‘Too Good’ for Obama | Mediaite

Rick Perry to Send National Guard to Stop Child Migrants – COLORLINES

The child migrant crisis is not just a border issue: Blue states need to step up.

But hey, if the Christian right wing assholes aren’t trying to send the immigrant children back to the hell they are escaping, they are trying to save them from Hell by teaching them “Jesus” saves!

Evangelical Group Aims to Convert Children as Young as Five at Portland Parks and Pools

Fucking religious people piss me off.

And it works all ways:

Right-wing professor: Raping Arab women is ‘the only thing that deters suicide bombers’

Ohio limits probe of charter school where teacher allowed boys to grope female classmates

Ladies who don’t use contraception have had it with you 99% that do, you dirty girls.

This is something too:

Airlines Suspend Flights to Israel After Hamas Rocket Falls Near Main Airport – NYTimes.com

On the “I don’t know karate, but I know…”…crazy front: BBC News – ‘Eighty new genes linked to schizophrenia’

And last bit of news, those off-shore wind farms are like an all you can eat buffet for seals: Seals forage at offshore wind farms

By using sophisticated GPS tracking to monitor seals’ every movement, researchers have shown for the first time that some individuals are repeatedly drawn to offshore wind farms and pipelines. Those man-made structures probably serve as artificial reefs and attractive hunting grounds, according to a study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 21.

“I was shocked when I first saw the stunning grid pattern of a seal track around Sheringham Shoal,” an in the United Kingdom, says Deborah Russell of the University of St Andrews. “You could see that the individual appeared to travel in straight lines between turbines, as if he was checking them out for potential prey and then stopping to forage at certain ones.”

Russell and her colleagues tagged harbor and on the British and Dutch coasts of the North Sea. Their data showed 11 harbor seals within two active , Alpha Ventus in Germany and Sheringham Shoal in the southeast UK. At both sites, some individual seals regularly entered the wind farms and, in some cases, showed these striking grid-like movement patterns as they appeared to forage at individual turbines.

The researchers also observed both gray and harbor seals associating with subsea pipelines. Two seals in the Netherlands encountered a section of pipeline and followed it on multiple trips for up to 10 days at a time.

There is a video illustration at the link.

The researchers now hope to continue their research to understand the population consequences of the massive planned developments. For instance, no one knows yet whether wind farms increase the total amount of prey available to or simply concentrate prey in a new and man-made location, making the prey particularly vulnerable to predation. The researchers say it will be imperative to resolve this uncertainty so that anthropogenic structures can be designed and managed to reduce adverse and increase any positive effects of these structures.
Well, what is up in your world this morning?

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

sleepreading-copy-2

 Good Morning!!

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

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

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airstrikes overnight in Gaza Strip (al Jazeera)

Airstrikes overnight in Gaza Strip (al Jazeera)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

No, he does not speak for me.

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

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

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

Ukraine and the Downed Malaysian Airlines Plane

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

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

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

Ukrainian intelligence backs up the assertion, Nayda said.

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

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

body train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much more at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

other news

Links to Some Interesting Reads on other Topics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: News Exhaustion Edition

Good Morning!

nap-timeWe’re going to have to see what I come up with today because I openly admit to being extremely tired.  We’ve had all this rain recently and it’s dark and gloomy all the time.  Yesterday, it was so hard and heavy that the French Quarter flooded.  So, here are a few things to consider before I head back to bed for awhile.

The Boston Globe features an article arguing that Southern Blacks and Hispanics will eventually trump angry, resentful, and backward white Republican voters in the South.  If only. The analysis is by Bob Moser.  The demographics have to be playing into white backlash which make the South the epicenter of voter suppression laws but it’s also a place where voter turnout is highly irregular.

The question is whether Democrats in these states are better served by following the region’s five-decade-long drift toward the GOP — or by betting that the climate is finally changing in their favor.

It’s a sign of things to come in states like North Carolina, where large influxes of Latino immigrants and “relocated Yankees,” both black and white, are tilting the demographic balance toward the Democrats and inspiring a new progressive movement. But despite Obama’s own surprising Southern breakthroughs — after Al Gore and John Kerry lost the entire region, he won three large Southern states in 2008 and two in 2012, falling just short in North Carolina — the region’s blue future is still a long-term proposition. Candidates like Hagan are stuck between the past, when Southern Democrats’ recipe for victory involved courting white moderates and conservativesand a future in which they’ll be able to successfully campaign as full-throated, national-style Democrats. To win, Hagan and her compatriots must simultaneously woo independent-minded whites while persuading massive numbers of young voters and nonwhites, who lean left on both economic and social issues, to join them.

It’s an awkward proposition, to be sure. But the Democratic contenders have appeared hell-bent on making it look downright impossible.

But, it appears Georgia may already be in just that state of mind.

In a poll by Landmark Communications released Sunday, Democrat Michelle Nunn has a commanding lead against both of her potential challengers in Georgia’s US Senate race. Against Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) Nunn is up by eight points, 49% to 41%. The poll also shows her with a nice lead against businessman David Perdue as Nunn leads him 48% to 42%. Perdue and Kingston are heading into a GOP primary runoff this coming Tuesday. The survey shows Kingston with a sizable lead as he is ahead by seven points, 48% to 41%.

While Nunn holds leads against both men, the thought is that she’d prefer to face Kingston in the general election. Atlanta-based political analyst Bill Crane had the following to say after this poll was released.

“I think Michelle Nunn would prefer to run against Jack Kingston. Twenty-two year incumbent, PAC money, special interest, her preferred race is the race that I think she’s going to get.”

Nunn taking the Georgia Senate seat would put a huge crimp in the plans of Republicans who feel they can take over the US Senate this November. Currently, the GOP needs to net six seats in the midterm to become the majority party in the Upper Chamber. Losing a Senate seat in a deep-red state that was previously held by a Republican will almost certainly prevent Republicans from taking over the Senate. While it is nearly a given that Democrats will lose seats this November, it is looking more and more promising that they will be able to retain control of the Senate.

There’s all kinds of things happening that have caused me to pull the blankets over my head. The horrors in the Gaza strip, the ongoing downed napMalaysian jet catastrophe, and the week long visit of the Army of God to our city.  They’re all over our women’s health clinics and they are creepy as creepy gets. Russia’s hand prints are all over the downed commercial airliner.  Militants weirdly suggested that the people on the plane were all dead before the plane took off.  WTF kind of craziness is this?

In a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters that it “strains credulity” to think pro-Russian separatists believed to have shot down MH17 didn’t have at least some help from Moscow. Kirby said the Buk is a “sophisticated piece of technology” that would likely require technical assistance from Russia.

Inside a Buk. As you can see, it’s not as easy as just pushing one big red button.

Indeed, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said in June the U.S. military’s intelligence was that rebels were being trained in tanks and anti-aircraft capability across the border, before heading back into eastern Ukraine to put it into practice.

According to IHS Jane’s Defense, a resource for intelligence and defense analysis, operating a Buk requires a trained crew. While the government of Ukraine also has Buk missile systems, Jane’s notes that the Ukrainian military has none of the systems in the region near the MH17 crash, as they were overtaken by pro-Russian separatists.

“The system is not a simple system to use. You need at least four to six months of training and ongoing training to operate it,” Ronald Bishop, a former U.S. Air Force missile expert, told Australia’s Warwick Daily News. “To fire this system you need to have highly-specialized military training.”

It finally looks like Europe is getting fed up with Russia and their cronies.  The response comes because of the careless treatments of the remains of the imagesvictims of the missile attack.

Investigators are still far from an official judgment of what brought down a Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew onboard. But the global court of public opinion, the verdict appears to be rendered.

Vladimir Putin is guilty.

The Russian President could once claim a semblance of a role as a global statesmen. But with the downing of a commercial airliner by what U.S. and Ukrainian officials suggest were pro-Moscow rebels using a missile supplied by Russia, Putin was facing a very personal barrage of worldwide condemnation that threatened to result in further sanctions on Russia if it did not rapidly change course in Ukraine.

Australia raised the prospect of banning Putin from a G-20 meeting of the world’s most powerful nations in November if he did not exert more pressure on the rebels who left corpses strewn on the ground for days,contaminated the crash site, and hampered an international investigation. Britain, meanwhile, openly accused the Russian leader of sponsoring “terrorism.” U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, appearing on multiple political talk shows Sunday, called this a “moment of truth” for Russia.

Particularly in Europe – a continent long leery of going too far to pressure Moscow over its support of separatists in Ukraine – initial shock was quickly gathering into outrage and action.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint phone call on Russia. A Downing Street spokesman said the three leaders agreed that the European Union “must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday.”

 

2607621162_13ece1c44c-1John Kerry gave Fox News a perfect opener during an appearance on Sunday.  Fox is about as neocon as you can get and they love it when Israel goes on any killing spree. Kerry’s oops moment is interesting. It’s hard to believe some one as skilled in politics as Kerry didn’t assume a hot mike and inquiring minds.

In an unusual moment during “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace presented Secretary of State John Kerry with video recorded before he came on air.

Wallace introduced the segment as being in reference to civilians killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip. “While you were on camera and while on microphone,” Wallace said, “you spoke to one of your top aides between the interviews about the situation in Israel.” He then played what the network had recorded. In the clip, Kerry is holding a cellphone conversation with someone. The person on the other end of the call isn’t identified, and the audio from the other participant is staticky.

Kerry’s comments are clear. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” he says, then repeats it. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” It’s an apparent reference to Israel’s insistence that its incursion into the region would be limited. “It’s escalating significantly,” the person on the phone replies, and Kerry then says: “We’ve got to get over there. I think we ought to go tonight.” He then calls it “crazy” to be “sitting around.”

“When you said it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Wallace asked, are you “upset that the Israelis are going too far?”

“It’s very difficult in these situations,” Kerry said, repeating that the United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself. He then explained his comments by saying, “I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does in respect to young children and civilians.”

tumblr_m5tge0pM4O1qatsw8I’m getting really tired of every one fellating Bibi.  He’s got to be high up there on the War Criminals list now and it’s about time we pressure Israel for a regime change. To hate Bibi is not to hate Jewish people.  It’s to abhor genocide.  I just really have gotten to the point where I hate religion altogether and the Abrahamic brands are just about the worst of it all. It’s just evil. Here’s the resident evil religious whackos plaguing New Orleans for the week. I’m probably going to go do some clinic escorting midweek.

A week of planned anti-abortion protests in the New Orleans area began Saturday morning (July 19) with about 55 people affiliated with Operation Save America gathered at the Causeway Medical Clinic in Metairie.

Shortly after, 40 picketed a private home in Carrollton, some holding posters with graphic images of aborted fetuses. Organizer Rusty Thomas of Waco, Texas, said activists are still arriving and other demonstrations are planned for coming days.

The organization said it was encouraged by anew Louisiana law that opponents say will likely shut down three of the five clinics in the state that perform abortions. The law, which supporters say is aimed at improving patient safety, goes into effect Sept. 1.

Richard Fegan of Mandeville, outside the Metairie location, said, “We’re trying to shut the place down because God gives life and God takes life … this place is trying to be God.”

Planned Parenthood said the protests are sparked by the organization’s upcoming new facility on South Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. No one was gathered at the construction site Saturday morning.

“Planned Parenthood’s focus is the health and safety of women, men and families in Louisiana,” said Melissa Flournoy, state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, in a statement. “These extremist organizations are trying to stop a new health center from serving this community, but in the end they’re only helping us build more support.”

It’s just hard to know what to do with people that just want to inflict their view of the world on the rest of us.  What is with all this craziness?  It’s like we’ve not gotten much farther than when we crawled out of the caves.  At least back then, we could only do limited damage.

Anyway, naptime is calling my name folks!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Sunday Reads

Jim Rockford reading file

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

200 a day plus expenses

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Rockford and Angel Martin

Jim Rockford and Angel Martin

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

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

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

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

I like car chases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel’s Attack on Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by Gaza Shore.

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

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

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

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

Some helpful reads on the Israeli-Palestine conflict:

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

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

Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at the link.

Today’s latest headlines on this story:

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

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

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


Saturday Reads: A li’l bit of This and That

Good Morning!

I thought I’d just try to put up a bunch of interesting articles that I’ve read recently, so I’m pretty sure there’s no theme here.  I guess we’ll see as I meander into each of them.

Economics started out as the study of Political Economy. Many of its early thinkers were definitely more essayists than researchers using data and vintage-science-picture-5statistical methods to look for trends.  The study of what we call frictions–or things in markets that cause them to stray from a perfect model—has been really important since we’ve learned to use data to empirically test theoretical models and constructs.  It’s interesting to go back to many of these early philosophical writers and notice that their gut feelings–as expressed in their essays–are as germane now as they were then. Karl Polanyi critiqued early market Capitalism in the 20th century in “The Great Transformation.” Polanyi argued that the idea of an efficient market economy was basically as utopian as its Marxist counterpoint.  Two sociologists have written a book that revisits the Polanyi critique.  Is the Free Market an impossible Utopia?  This is from an interview with the two researchers.

Polanyi’s core thesis is that there is no such thing as a free market; there never has been, nor can there ever be. Indeed he calls the very idea of an economy independent of government and political institutions a “stark utopia”—utopian because it is unrealizable, and the effort to bring it into being is doomed to fail and will inevitably produce dystopian consequences. While markets are necessary for any functioning economy, Polanyi argues that the attempt to create a market society is fundamentally threatening to human society and the common good In the first instance the market is simply one of many different social institutions; the second represents the effort to subject not just real commodities (computers and widgets) to market principles but virtually all of what makes social life possible, including clean air and water, education, health care, personal, legal, and social security, and the right to earn a livelihood. When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls “fictitious commodities”) are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue.

Free market doctrine aims to liberate the economy from government “interference”, but Polanyi challenges the very idea that markets and governments are separate and autonomous entities. Government action is not some kind of “interference” in the autonomous sphere of economic activity; there simply is no economy without government rules and institutions. It is not just that society depends on roads, schools, a justice system, and other public goods that only government can provide. It is thatall of the key inputs into the economy—land, labor, and money—are only created and sustained through continuous government action. The employment system, the arrangements for buying and selling real estate, and the supplies of money and credit are organized and maintained through the exercise of government’s rules, regulations, and powers.

By claiming it is free-market advocates who are the true utopians, Polanyi helps explain the free market’s otherwise puzzlingly tenacious appeal: It embodies a perfectionist ideal of a world without “coercive” constraints on economic activities while it fiercely represses the fact that power and coercion are the unacknowledged features of all market participation.

tumblr_n30dq5LmdH1qbn5m1o3_500I have another study for BB.   This one was published in the July issue of Cognitive Science.  The authors found that children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in “fantastical stories” are fictional.  Children raised in a religious environment even “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”  

In “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.”

However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism. The authors believed that these children would “think of them as akin to fairy tales,” judging “the events described in them as implausible or magical and conclude that the protagonists in such narratives are only pretend.”

And yet, “this prediction is likely to be wrong,” because “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, children “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person — even if the narrative includes impossible events.”

The researchers took 66 children between the ages of five and six and asked them questions about stories — some of which were drawn from fairy tales, others from the Old Testament — in order to determine whether the children believed the characters in them were real or fictional.

“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.

Archaeologists have found an 8000 year old skull containing residual brain matter. Girton Laboratory

Archaeologists in Norway have found what could potentially be an 8,000-year-old human skull – which contains traces of brain matter.The finding at a site in Stokke, Vestfold, could shed light on life in the Stone Age, a period that lasted roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 6000 BC and 2000 BC.It was among a number of discoveries unearthed during the excavation, The Local reported.

It is too early to tell whether the bone remains are those of a human or an animal, but early tests have dated the skull to around 5,900BC, placing it within the prehistoric Stone Age period.

Gaute Reitan, dig site leader, told NRK that the “one of a kind” skull contained a grey substance that appeared to be brain matter.

But he said it was not possible to confirm if it belongs to a human.

mad-scienceThe Guardian reports that the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists are scurrying to cover up their guilt in the shoot down of the Malaysian commercial jet killing hundreds of people.

The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn. The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.

A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”

Video footage allegedly taken on Thursday appeared to support the idea that pro-Russia separatists had been to blame. It showed a Buk battery seemingly being moved in the rebel-held area between Snizhne and Torez close to the crash site. A still picture allegedly shows a missile in vertical launch mode beside a supermarket in Torez. However, the location has still to be established.

Ukrainian intelligence has published a tape said to be a recording between rebels and Russian intelligence in which they realise there has been a catastrophic blunder. One recording is said to be between a rebel commander, Igor Bezler, and a Russian intelligence officer in which he says: “We have just shot down a plane.” A second recording from an unidentified source puts the blame on Cossack militiamen.

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

Nato had Awacs surveillance and command-and-control planes flying in the Baltics around the time of the crash, but Pentagon officials did not think the aircraft picked up indications of the disaster.

Bob Latiff, a former US weapons developer for the air force and the CIA and now a professor at Notre Dame University, said he leaned towards a belief that it was a case of mistaken identity on the part of those who pressed the button.

“A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.

“My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 ft or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”

Latiff said that if they had only one radar, as Ukrainian officials suggest, it would have been pointed at the target. A second, rotating one would normally have been part of a battery to pick up other planes in the immediate vicinity, but he said even that would not have established whether it was a commercial plane and there would normally have been communications equipment to pick up signals showing the plane was non-military.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russia separatists or Russia itself.

But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.

So, I still can’t discern much of a pattern here but I just found all these links very interesting.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


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

kubrick-subway-newspapers

Good Morning!!

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

Israel Invades Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

There’s much more information at the link.

1955 train

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, many more details at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at the link.

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

Downing of Malaysian Airlines Jet Over Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

old-man-reading-newspaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ongoing War on Women’s Reproductive Rights

1963 subway news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday Reads: No Ambiguity Please! We’re conservatives!!!

Good Morning!

downloadFor those of us that wonder wtf is wrong with people that call themselves “conservative”, there are more studies that show that the people that self-identify as such are more “threat oriented”.   Conservatives tend to have a bias towards negativity and respond to things they perceive as threats.  They also appear to hate ambiguity and gray areas.  So, something in their brains causes them to be intimidated by all kinds of things.

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets—centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns—would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

Hibbing’s Research supports earlier research.  (Yes BB!  Here’s the link! ) Jost and earlier researchers have found similar patterns in the brains andnon-traditional-families-heart-shaped-buttons-13339954 actions of self-identified conservatives. Researcher’s have found that “conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity” . Jost’s work in 2003 brought heaps of criticism by the usual suspects.  That would be icky George Will, the revolting Ann Coulter, and writers from the National Review. It almost seemed like they were trying to prove the researchers correct.  Jost examines the current Hibbing et al study.

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety. [Italics added]

imagesSenate Democrats have been trying to fight back some of the most outrageous findings of SCOTUS that force the white male, Opus Dei Catholic’s idea of religion on women.  As expected, the Senate Republicans blocked the move.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation that would require companies to provide birth control coverage in their employee healthcare plans.

The bill failed to advance in a 56-43 vote, with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) voting with Democrats.

“Today, Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have made it illegal for any company to deny their employees and dependents specific health benefits required by federal law, like birth control,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after the vote. “Senate Republicans continue to demonstrate that they are out of touch with women across America.”

Reid switched his vote to “no” on the bill before the vote was closed, giving him the option of bringing it up again.

Democrats put forward the bill to reverse the effects of last month’s Supreme Court ruling, which found that the government could not mandate that certain employers provide birth-control coverage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Republicans have cheered the ruling as a victory for the First Amendment, and say the protections that the high court afforded the Hobby Lobby chain under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should remain in place.

On the left, the backlash to the ruling has been intense. Democrats want to harness that anger as they try to turn out their voters in the midterm elections.

“Women across the country are watching,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “Who should be in charge of a woman’s healthcare decisions? Should it be a woman — making those decisions with her partner, her doctor and her faith? Or should it be her boss — making those decisions for her based on his own religious beliefs?”

Patty is right.  The anger of women and the ever-widening gender gap may help Senate Democrats maintain majority control.  News outlets following goldfishfall races are noting how the gender gap plays out in many races.  Here is an NBC report showing recent polls.

When it comes to the Republican Party’s path to a Senate majority, so much of the focus has been on the red states. But the difference between the GOP pursuing a lasting majority and one that is temporary — or even elusive — is how it performs in purple and blue states like Colorado and Michigan. And our brand-new NBC/Marist polls of Colorado and Michigan show Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) leading Cory Gardner (R) by seven points among registered voters, 48%-41%, in Colorado’s key Senate race. They find Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ahead of GOP challenger Bob Beauprez by six points, 49%-43%. They have Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) up over Republican Terri Lynn Land by six, 43%-37%, in Michigan’s Senate contest. And they show Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading Democratic challenger Mark Schauer by two points, 46%-44%. So why are Udall, Peters, and Snyder all ahead in their contests? Here’s an explanation: mind the gaps — the gender gap, the Latino gap, and the independent gap. In Colorado, Udall is up by 12 points among female voters (50%-38%), as Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC are up with TV ads (like this one) on abortion and contraception. Indeed, 70% of Colorado voters in the NBC/Marist poll said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports restrictions on the use of contraception. And in Michigan, Peters is ahead by 13 points with women (46%-33%).

bothsexismanImportant races will most likely be determined by the level of anger in the black community over voter suppression legislation, hispanic anger over the refugee crisis on the border, and the anger of women who have had it with all the attacks on their reproductive rights and statements to the effect that there is no such thing as work place discrimination.  Senate Minority Leader McConnell just announced that workplace sexism is over and things like equal pay laws just are giving women preferential treatment.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—challenging the notion that Republicans are waging a war on women—recently told a group of Kentuckians that gender discrimination in the workplace is a thing of the past. “I could be wrong, but most of the barriers have been lowered,” McConnell said while visiting a small business in Buckner, Kentucky. “Women voters will look at the same issues as men are.” His remarks wererecorded and reported by a local newspaper, the Oldham Era.

Speaking last Thursday at Fastline Publications, which produces farm equipment catalogs, McConnell, who’s in a tough reelection fight against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, cited the prevalence of female CEOs as evidence that women are thriving within corporate America. “We’ve come a long way in pay equity, and there are a ton of women CEOs now running major companies,” McConnell said.

“I don’t grant the assumption that we need to sort of give preferential treatment to the majority of our population, which is, in my view, leading and performing,” McConnell said, referring to women in the workplace. He added, “Maybe I’m missing something here.” Noting that Grimes was claiming that McConnell has promoted “policies that are harmful to women,” he criticized her for pursuing an agenda of “exploitation for political purposes.” He asserted that Grimes was trying “to convince people that women should vote for her because she’s a woman.” He noted that the last time he ran for reelection, he won 50 percent of women.

McConnell’s facts are off. Women have had greater success in recent years in reaching the top-tier of corporate America, with a record number of women leading Fortune 500 companies this year. But that number is still small. Of the top 500 corporate CEOs, just 24—4.8 percent—are women. That’s hardly representative of the American public given that, as McConnell noted, women make up more than half of the population. Moreover, in 2013, women held just 16.9 percent of board slots at Fortune 500 companies, according to a study by Catalyst, a nonprofit that tracks gender trends in employment. That same study found that 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies didn’t have any female board members.

As for pay equity, Catalyst’s research shows that women represent only 8.1 percent of the top earner slots at major companies. The specific numbers are often debated, but the data shows that men tend to make more than women throughout the economy. Democrats contend that women earn 77 cents for every dollar pocketed by men, a figure calculated by comparing all full-time female workers to their male counterparts without taking into account differences in occupation. But when men and women in the same career field are compared, the men still come out on top …

The entire Republican party–this includes old cranky white men and the women that cling to them like victims of Stockholm Syndrome–run on sexism000platforms of running scared from science, modernity and racial and religious minorities, women and GLBT  humans that won’t stay in their assigned, oppressed roles. This so fits with the research noted above.

In their eagerness to label busloads of children dangerous, a group of Arizona xenophobes chased down a bus of local school children headed for YMCA summer camp.

Protesters waved “Return to Sender” signs, shoved a group of mariachi musicians and waited for a bus of immigrant children that the local sheriff told them would arrive. At one point, they briefly halted a bus before realizing it was carrying children from a YMCA.

According to USA Today, Arizona Rep. Adam Kwasman was among those who thought that the bus of YMCA campers was full of migrant children, tweeting: “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.”

He later deleted the tweet and apologized for the mistake.

A GOP congressman decries the refugee children as diseased and unvaccinated. Ironically, this congressman has opposed mandatory vaccinations.   He also feared they would bring Ebola to the US.  Ebola is a disease that has been found in Africa and Asia.

Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a dire warning: Some of the child refugeesstreaming across the southern border into the United States might carry deadly diseases. “Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Gingrey wrote. “Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles.”

Gingrey’s analysis carried an aura of credibility among conservatives, because, as Judicial Watch noted, the congressman is “also [a] medical doctor.” But his two-page letter is filled with false charges—there’s no evidence that migrants carry Ebola or that they’re less likely to be vaccinated—from an inconvenient messenger: The congressman has himself pushed legislation to discourage some kinds of mandatory vaccinations in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola virus has only ever affected humans in sub-Saharan Africa. (It has been found in China and the Philippines, but has never caused an illness, let alone a fatality.) Central America is far away from sub-Saharan Africa:

racism1Another GOP congressman has announced that all these children are the gang members who will export a “culture of rape”.

A Florida Republican congressman called undocumented immigrant children at the border not children at all but gang-affiliated persons from a culture of thievery, murder, and violence.

“A lot of these children … quote-unquote … ya know, the first caller mentioned it, ya know, they’re gang members. They’re gang affiliated,” Florida Republican Rep. Rich Nugent said on WOCA radio Monday.

Nugent added that the culture the children were coming from was one of violence and there would be a complications in bringing the children into American culture.

“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested — particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs — when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery. A culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”

Thousands of children, many under the age of 8, have crossed the border in recent months from Central America.

So, again, small children are made into some kind of perceived threat.  They obviously aren’t here for jobs.  So, they must fall into some other kind of threat.  These examples show how low some minds can go.

Anyway, that’s my contribution for today.  Next time you read something one of these nutters says, you can assure yourself it’s all in their minds.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?