Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Breaking News

morningcoffee

Good Morning!!

There’s a lot of news breaking around the world this morning, much of it only tangentially to politics; so I have a mixed bag of reads for you to peruse.

Let’s start with some humor. Did you hear about actress Helen Mirren’s public rant yesterday? The NY Daily News spells it out: Helen Mirren, dressed as Queen Elizabeth II, tells drummers who interrupted her performance to ‘shut the f- -k up’

All hail the drama queen!

Dame Helen Mirren was spotted cursing up a storm in London after a gay pride parade chanced to pass outside the theater where she was performing.

The Oscar-winning actress, dressed in character as the Queen of England, rushed out onto the street and screamed at the noisy crowd to “shut the f–k up.”

The 67-year-old star was headlining the play “The Audience” at London’s Gielgud Theatre. Drummers from the gay music festival stopped outside the theater and kept up the racket for the first half of her performance.

During the intermission, Mirren burst through Gielgud’s front doors and tried to grab the conductor’s arm.

mirren drums

Later, she told reporters she’d “yell at [the] drummers again.”

Helen Mirren has said that she’d repeat her expletive-filled outburst at a group of drummers who disrupted her performance at the Gielgud Theatre in London at the weekend.

“If they make the same noise I would say the same again,” she said. “I was very upset, I was very cross.”

The Batala samba band had begun an impromptu performance on Sunday outside the theatre at which Mirren is starring as the Queen in the play ‘The Audience’.

But on hearing the noise, Mirren, still dressed in her costume, stormed off the stage and out into the street to give the band a piece of her mind.

A Volcano erupted in the Philippines, killing five members of a group of mountain climbers. BBC News:

Mount Mayon, 330km (206 miles) south-east of the capital Manila, sent a cloud of ash and rocks into the sky early on Tuesday.

The ash blast caught a group climbing the mountain, which is famous for its near-perfect cone.

At least seven other climbers were hurt in the eruption, which lasted for just over a minute.

“Five killed and seven are injured, that is the latest report,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chief Eduardo del Rosario said.

Four of those killed were German nationals and the fifth was their Filipino guide, the NDRRMC said later in a statement.

You probably heard about the horrific limo fire in San Francisco yesterday. SF Chronicle:

They were heading out on what was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of Neriza Fojas’ life, a party to cap off the bridal shower she’d been celebrating with eight of her nurse friends. Then the women’s stretch limousine headed west over the San Mateo Bridge – and horror erupted.

Just after 10 p.m. Saturday, flames burst out in the back of the 1999 Lincoln Town Car. The driver pulled over, and he and four of the women managed to escape. But the other five passengers, including Fojas, remained trapped.

They couldn’t get out the rear doors, so they tried to squeeze through a small window into the driver’s compartment. Within seconds, the back end was engulfed and it was too late.

Emergency workers later found Fojas and four of her friends clustered under the 3-by-1 1/2-foot window. The women, all in their 30s and 40s, died in the flames.

WPTV-limo-fire-1_20130505073118_320_240

The driver claimed he did everything he could to help, but one of the survivors is “disputing” his story. Detroit Free Press:

One of the survivors of a limousine fire that killed five women on a San Francisco Bay bridge is disputing the driver’s version of what happened when the limo burst into flames.

Nelia Arellano told San Francisco’s KGO-TV that she yelled at the driver to stop the car, but he “didn’t want to listen.”

When the driver, Orville Brown, did finally stop, Arellano says he did nothing to help the women get out of the burning car after he exited.

Brown has said that, at first, he misunderstood what one of the passengers in the back was saying when she knocked on the partition between the passenger area and the driver and complained about smelling smoke.

With the music up, he initially thought the woman was asking if she could smoke. Seconds later, he said, the women knocked again, this time screaming, “Smoke, smoke!” and “Pull over,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.

CNN reports: Death toll from Bangladesh building collapse climbs above 700

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) — The death toll from the disastrous building collapse in Bangladesh last month has risen above 700, authorities said Tuesday, as recovery workers continued to pull bodies from the rubble.

The building, which housed five factories full of garment workers, caved in nearly two weeks ago, burying hundreds of people in a heap of mangled concrete in Savar, a suburb of the capital, Dhaka. It is the South Asian nation’s deadliest industrial disaster.

Rescue workers managed to save more than 2,400 people in the aftermath of the collapse, but their work for the past week has focused on using heavy machinery to uncover the remaining bodies buried inside the ruins.

The number of people confirmed dead from the disaster reached 705 on Tuesday, according to Jitendra Kumar Nath, a senior official with the district administration of Dhaka.

A large number of people have continued to wait near the site of the collapse for news of missing relatives. Their gathering point is a school playing field where bodies retrieved from the ruins are taken for initial identification attempts.

From Reuters: Head of U.S. Air Force’s anti-sexual assault unit arrested for sexual battery

The officer in charge of a program to curb sexual assault in the U.S. Air Force was arrested over the weekend for allegedly grabbing a woman by the breasts and buttocks in a parking lot not far from the Pentagon, officials said on Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, was arrested on Sunday and charged with sexual battery after the alleged incident in the Crystal City area of suburban Arlington, Virginia, officials said.

Krusinski, the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was removed from his job pending an investigation on Monday….

An Arlington County Police spokesman said Krusinski, who was under the influence of alcohol, grabbed the woman by the breasts and buttocks in a parking lot. She fended him off, and when he tried to grab her again, she called the police, who arrived shortly thereafter and detained him, the spokesman said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed “outrage” over the incident:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Air Force Secretary Michael Donley Monday to express his “outrage and disgust” after the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch chief was arrested and charged early Sunday morning with sexual battery.

“Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegation and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” said George Little, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, in a statement.

Arlington County police officers arrested Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, in the early morning hours of Sunday morning in a Northern Virginia parking lot near Crystal City Gentleman’s Club and Restaurant — a strip club one mile from the Pentagon. He was accused of fondling a woman near the strip club before the female victim fought him off, according to the police report.

Micaria sociabilis

Micaria sociabilis

Here’s an interesting science story: Male Black Widows Flip Sexual Cannibalism

Black widow spiders get their names from the belief that the female devours her partner after sex. But this gruesome ritual doesn’t always happen after mating and sometimes, the roles are even reversed, researchers say.

For choosy female black widows, sexual cannibalism is an extreme way to assert their partner preference, with less desirable males more likely to be chased down and eaten after they insert their sperm-coated palps into a female.

But in the species Micaria sociabilis, males are more likely to eat the females than be eaten, a new study found.

A team at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic studied how different pairings of the spiders interacted in a lab, making sure the creatures were well-fed to rule out hunger-driven cannibalism.

Males ate the females typically after the spiders’ first contact and before any mating, with the culprits most often males from the summer generation, the researchers found. These males tend to be larger than their counterparts born into the spring generation, suggesting size matters in aggression.

Meanwhile, age might be a dooming factor for the female Micaria sociabilis. There was a peak in reverse sexual cannibalism when males from the summer generation encountered older females from the spring generation, the researchers found. What’s more, not even virginity or big body size, often considered signs of mating quality for spiders, could save the older females from male cannibalization.

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

 

Authorities in Cleveland are currently holding a press conference on the dramatic story of three missing women being discovered in a home in Cleveland. You can watch it hear or on CNN.

If there are new developments today, I’ll update in a later post.

What’s on your mind today? What are you hearing and reading? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


It looks like an evening reads post…Open Thread

Good Late Night!

I am running behind today, but happy because I actually have gotten a lot done. Anyway, I will post some items for you tonight…

That saying, a picture is worth a thousand words…could not be more appropriate here, check this out:

Walmart Blames Rogue Supplier for Apparel Found at Site of Deadly Factory Fire (Updated)

NGOs slammed Walmart following a Saturday fire that killed at least 112 workers at a Bangladesh factory which has supplied apparel to the retail giant. While Walmart said Sunday night that it had not confirmed that it has any relationship to the factory, photos taken following the fire (first published by The Nation early Monday afternoon) show piles of clothes made for one of its exclusive brands. In a new statement released Monday evening, Walmart said that at the time of the fire, the factory “was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for Walmart” and said that a supplier had “subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies.”

 


Photo Credit: International Labor Rights Forum

Give that piece a read in its entirety, as there have been many updates to this story. I have to ask Dan if those pants look familiar to him, I’d be curious if they are clothing from previous seasons or the items for spring 2013.

In Texas, a group of World War II veterans got together to talk about their experiences. Texas World War II submariners meet to share stories

The four men in yellow vests stand out in the Golden Corral restaurant, where about 30 U.S. military veterans are gathered on a recent Saturday to eat and talk about submarines.

Their hair is a little grayer. They move slower. And the younger men there don’t hesitate to remind anyone talking to the United States Submarine Veterans Inc. Cowtown Base to speak up so these fellows can hear.

They are World War II veterans, a small but treasured generation of submariners now in their 80s and 90s. Nationally, their numbers have dwindled as the men have grown old and died. Reunions have gotten scarce. Organizations have dissolved.

But Dallas-Fort Worth remains home to a handful of World War II submariners whose sea stories hold an irreplaceable spot in U.S military history.

Again, that is just a taste, go spend a few minutes with that article.

I’m going to stick with this history “stuff” for the rest of the post. This next link goes directly to an archive of letters and documents from William Tecumseh Sherman. I thought that with Boston Boomer’s review of Lincoln, it would be neat for you to take a look at some other figures in the Civil War. But why bring this particular letter up? Because I think it has a few sentences that you will appreciate. Sherman Writes a Friend Touring the Levant

The ex-Commanding General of the United States Army was sixty, the widow of his chief of staff but thirty-five, and whether he bedded her six weeks after her husband’s death in 1880 is neither proven nor disproven here. What is clear is that ten years after Joseph Audenreid died, Sherman was intimately involved in Mary Audenreid’s life, and in that of her wayward daughter, Florence; and fond enough, still, of Colonel Audenreid, to have mentioned him not once but twice, in this joshing missive about travel and the Levant.

Here is the part I wanted to bring to your attention.

No 75 – West 71 Str
New York.
Jan 20, 1890

Dear Mrs. Audenreid,

I am just in receipt of your letter of Jan 3rd dated Naples in which you say that it is agreed by the parties concerned that you go to Cairo, the Holy Land, Smyrna, Constantinople, Athens &c &c. No wonder like Hamlet you see the ghosts of Audenreid and Sherman beckoning you on to the End. You are at this moment on our footsteps of 1872 only we were men and you are women. And I will not be the least astonished if the mysterious cable announces that  those [you] Philadelphia girls have been abducted into the harem of some rich merchant of Smyrna, squatting on the divan, eating sweet meats and delighted when the little bell tinkles and tells his favorite that he wants her. Florence would realize the dream of Byron in his Bride of Abydos: but what would Audenreid think? No! the world has changed. Woman is no longer the slave of the man, but his equal.

He goes on to talk about the importance of a woman, and her relationship with her family…but I really thought that was a an interesting comment, and a surprisingly modern observation.

Okay, now on to another history centered link. 10 Incredible Places Carved From Rock | Listverse This is fun, check out the full list…

When we talk about rocked carved sites most people will think of Petra in Jordan. It is certainly worthy of its fame because it is so beautiful. But what many don’t know is that it is but one of many similar rock carvings – some of which should perhaps hold the honor of being more beautiful. In this list we look at ten rock carved sites that you very probably are unaware of.

They are all fascinating, but since I have the Indian artwork up top, I will stick with one of India’s incredible places carved from rock.

The Ajanta Caves are in Maharashtra, India and they comprise of around 30 carved Buddha statues. What makes these caves extra special though is the large number of very beautiful paintings – excellent examples of Indian art at its finest. They date from the 2nd century BC.

One more quick thing tonight, I am so excited about an unexpected surprise which has allowed me to get something I have wanted for a very long time. An old manual typewriter…and I am fortunate to have found one, in good working condition and a good price. Here it is, Typed On Paper: Olympia SM3 

Olympia SM3

Olympia SM3

Olympia SM3 is the same typewriter used by Woody Allen and Patricia Highsmith…along with several other authors. I am looking forward to having this part of history connected to my written stories.

You can find more information on these Olympia typewriters at that link.

This is an open thread…


Wikileaks and Bangladesh

Well, it certainly is becoming more obvious as to why both the US and the UK want Wikileaks shut down.  The latest cable releases from the disc carried out of the State Department by an anonymous source details some horrendous behavior in the small, developing nation of Bangladesh.   The more I dig into the details of what’s going on in developing nations due to our greed and their lack of justice systems and laws just about has me weeping on my computer keys.

For one, we learn that the US pushed for reopening a mine that was the subject of protests by residents of the area.

US diplomats privately pressurised the Bangladeshi government into reinstating a controversial coal mine which had been closed following violent protests, a leaked diplomatic cable shows.

The US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, last year held talks with the country’s chief energy adviser, urging him to approve plans by the British company Global Coal Management (GCM) to begin open-cast coal mining in the country’s Phulbari area, in the west of Bangladesh.

GCM were forced to shut down operations in the country in 2006 after a grassroots demonstration turned violent. Three people were killed as soldiers fired at protesters, and several hundred were injured.

But the company has continued to maintain a strong presence in the country and has continued to lobby for rights to operate the coal mine ever since. Earlier this month, Steve Bywater, GCM’s chairman, said that a Bangladeshi parliamentary standing committee had recommended that the country moves towards extracting coal reserves using open-cut mining methods.

The Phulbari Coal project was supposed to turn the country into a coal-exporter by 2007.  I found some information on the project and lo and behold, JP Morgan has financial interests.  As you know, what’s good for the nation’s investment bankers is good for the country.

Major Institutional Shareholders (Over 3%)

  • RAB Capital Special Situations
  • LLP Framlington Investment Management Limited
  • L-R Global Partners
  • LP L-R Global Fund Limited
  • Morgan Stanley Securities Limited
  • Cambrian Mining Plc

There’s also some start up investment involvement with Barclay’s Capital.  Some geologist is going to have to look at most of those slides in the presentation, but the financial interests and the start up project is right up my alley.  A good place to start investigating the value to the country of the project is a site called the  International Accountability Project.

In the Phulbari area of Northwest Bangladesh, communities have come together to raise their voices against the proposed Phulbari Coal Project–which threatens to turn this fertile agricultural region into an open-pit coal mine.  If implemented, the mine would have devastating environmental impacts and ultimately displace up to 130,000 people.

Old Strip Mines in Florida: Landscape forever changed.

 

Well, now we know why there were riots and if you look at the financials in that presentation, you can see why a few grubby folks want to go wreck the environment there.   You may want to check the presentation slides for this little item. The mine life is only 30 years.  The strip ratio is expected to be 6.1 waste bcm per tonne of coal.  I took one course in geology as an undergraduate and mostly identified rocks and strata soI had go look up the exact implication of a strip ratio.  I found a short explanation from Ernest & Young First, a low strip ratio is good because that means less has to be stripped out.  Stripping costs seem to be the major cost for coal mines. You can see from the presentation that the type of mining employed is Opencast with Truck and Shovel.

Open cast coal mining recovers a greater proportion of the coal deposit than underground methods, as more of the coal seams in the strata may be exploited. Large Open Cast mines can cover an area of many square kilometers and use very large pieces of equipment. This equipment can include the following: Draglines which operate by removing the overburden, power shovels, large trucks in which transport overburden and coal, bucket wheel excavators, and conveyors. In this mining method, explosives are first used in order to break through the surface of the mining area. The coal is then removed by draglines or by shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and thoroughly mined in strips. The coal is then loaded on to large trucks or conveyors for transport to either the coal preparation plant or directly to where it will be used

As such, the process is very destructive to the surrounding environment.  The region involved is now full of farmers in a country where food insecurity is still an issue.  From the IAP:

The Phulbari coal mine would use 5,933 hectares (around 60 sq. km.) of land, 80 percent of which is used for agriculture.  It would physically displace as many as 130,000 people, mostly farming and indigenous households. This uprooting and resettlement of entire villages is being planned in one of the world’s most densely populated countries.  Project plans clearly state that agricultural land and other vital resources including fish ponds, timber, and bamboo trees, would not be replaced.  In short, the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people would be irrevocably disrupted by a mining operation that would transform productive farmers into landless people with no clear prospects for other livelihoods or employment.

Going back to the cable leaked from the Wikileaks:

In a cable posted by WikiLeaks which was sent in July last year, Moriarty says he had urged Tawfiq Elahi

Open pit mine in Colorado

Chowdhury, the prime minister’s energy adviser, to authorise coal mining, saying that “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward”.

Later on in the cable, Moriarty privately noted: “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment. Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months.”

However, in the cable Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted the coal mine was “politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land”. Chowdhury, according to the cable, then agrees to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.

Well, that’s what our delightful government is doing in its spare time; protecting the investments of JP Morgan and ruining the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous Bangladeshis.  But what about our cousins the Brits?  This is from MSNBC.

The British government has trained a paramilitary force accused of hundreds of killings in Bangladesh, according to leaked U.S. embassy cables.

The Guardian newspaper said the cables described training for members of the Rapid Action Battalion as being in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement.”

One cable notes that U.S. training for the battalion in counterterrorism would be illegal under U.S. law because of human rights violations.

The newspaper said the battalion has been accused by human rights activists of being a “death squad” responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings since it was established in 2004. In March, the battalion’s leader said it had killed 622 people in “crossfire.”

The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights groups, the Guardian said. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out killings.

However, the cables reveal that British and Americans officials favor bolstering the force to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh. One cable describes U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty as saying the battalion is the “enforcement organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

The British training began three years ago, The Guardian said, quoting the cables.

There is also this report from Democracy Now if you’d like to watch more coverage of the item.   There’s your taxes at works folks!!  Making friends around the world!!

No wonder they want to shut down the Wikileaks and jail its founder.

Aside:  Although the above information–according to Assange–was not from Bradley Manning, I did want to mention this good news.

The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning’s supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.

The Pentagon denies the former intelligence analyst is mistreated, saying he is treated the same as other prisoners at Quantico, Virginia, is able to exercise, and has access to newspapers and visitors.

He was charged in July with leaking classified material including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 US attack in Baghdad by a Apache helicopter that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver.