Wednesday Reads: Put up your dukes!

a8ade4f956b30d8e6b99b03acfea9da1Good Morning

Oi! Put up your dukes and lets duke it out!

WordPress has fugged up with their editor, which means that the pictures and formatting may be a little off in this post. That said the images are all found on pinterest and are all various vintage picture of women boxing.

Why?

Because, the shit going on with the Supremes is something that makes me want to put on a pair of boxing gloves and kick some PLUB #HobbyLobby loving ass.

Justice Kennedy Thinks Hobby Lobby Is An Abortion Case — That’s Bad News For Birth Control | ThinkProgress

“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli. This was not the Anthony Kennedy that worried about c65cfc1d1ec08b5d3d8a8a07be5446b8conservatives imposing their anti-gay “animus” on others, this was the Anthony Kennedy that views abortion as a grave moral wrong. Shortly after Kennedy made this statement, Justice Kagan’s face dropped. It appeared that she’d just figured out that she would be joining a dissenting opinion.

It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law.

More from :

SCOTUSblog: Birth control, business, and religious beliefs: In Plain English

Wednesday round-up : SCOTUSblog

Ugh….but that fucked up crap about the pill being “abortion” aside, last night Boston Boomer put up a tweet in the comments that I think needs to be shared up on the front page.

This brings up a good point, one of the tweets in this thread says that Hobby Lobby responded…

Some of the tweets mention the “myth” of infanticide and forced abortions…which is bullshit. Take a look at this from Telegraph:

Malaysia Airlines missing flight exposes tragedy of China’s ‘orphaned’ one-child parents

Much has been written about the human rights abuses associated with China’s notorious one-child policy: the forced abortions, sterilisations and even cases of infanticide as rural families sought to rid themselves of girls they thought were less useful than boys.

But the disappearance of MH370 has cast light a less well-known but equally devastating phenomenon: that of the “orphaned” parents who, through accident or illness, lost the only child the Chinese government allowed them to have.

There are an estimated one million so-called “shidu” families in China, with state media reporting that around 76,000 new families are “orphaned” each year.

“When you lose your only child, it feels like the sky has fallen in,” said one bereaved Shanghai mother, who lost her only daughter and her husband to a 2012 car accident.

“Because of the one-child policy a million families have lost their offspring forever,” added the woman, who requested anonymity because of the politically sensitive nature of the subject. “It is an ethical tragedy. Nobody can take away the pain.”

2ee90dc1af530f0f0d9815faf83b983cRecent months have seen several major Chinese cities and provinces including Beijing and Shanghai start to change the controversial birth control policy, relaxing family planning rules so parents who are both only children can now have two children.

On the subject of lost children…grown children…the numbers have gone up in the death toll over in the Washington state landslide claims up to 24, more than 100 missing.

The number of dead climbed to as high as 24 with the recovery Tuesday of two more bodies and another eight believed to have been located in the debris.

Authorities did not immediately release the identities of the dead nor did they provide details about where the bodies were found.

At least 176 people are unaccounted for. Officials have stressed those unaccounted for are not necessarily all victims of the disaster. They say they believe many names have been duplicated.

Three sheriff’s deputies who specialize in missing persons cases have begun reviewing the lists to get a more accurate count, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said.

And if death from plane crash or mudslide is not depressing enough, how about Ebola: W Africa scrambles to prevent Ebola spread

West African nations scrambled to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus suspected to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea, with symptoms of the disease reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia as well.26392ed054c7d10c9eca5bd8d5187606

The spread of Ebola, one of the most lethal infectious diseases known, has spooked nations with weak health care systems. In Guinea’s southeast, home to all the confirmed cases, residents are avoiding large gatherings and prices in some markets have spiked as transporters avoid the area.

Health authorities in Liberia said they had now recorded eight suspected cases of Ebola, mainly in people who crossed the border from Guinea.

Five of these had died but tests were still being carried out to check if the cases were indeed Ebola, the Reuters news agency reported.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a total of 86 suspected cases, including 59 deaths, had been reported in southeastern Guinea near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia.

This next quote is very scary:

“People are really frightened. They have seen people die in a matter of just two or three days. They are constantly worried who is going to be the next fatality,” said Joseph Gbaka Sandounou, who manages operations for aid agency Plan International in Guekedou.

On to more “newsy” link goodness. Major Garrett has a piece up over at National Journal: Obama Tries to Put Putin in His Place—Again

Moments after deflecting a question about his diminished influence on the world stage, President Obama described Russia as a “regional power” operating in Crimea out of weakness, not strength.

Women boxing at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. LouisNoting Russia’s long-standing influence in all of Ukraine, Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea “indicates less influence, not more.”

I guess that’s why Ukraine’s defense minister resigned and Ukrainian troops bugged out of Crimea, leaving it to Russian forces. This is the only “off ramp” that matters in Crimea. Ukraine and its rhetorically florid Western allies took it. Not Putin.

Even as the White House insists Crimea is not “lost” (Putin can find it without satellite imagery, after all), the grudging language of concession seeps from every corridor of Ukrainian talks here.

“It’s not a done deal in the sense that the international community by and large isn’t recognizing the annexation of Crimea,” Obama said, before acknowledging the “facts on the ground” favored Russia. “It would be dishonest to say there is a simple solution to resolving what has already taken place in Crimea.”

Obama and European leaders are rattled and resentful, thunderstruck that the wispy bonds of international “norms” could be so easily shredded. Fearful of the precedent they appear incapable of reversing, and desperate to limit Putin’s ambitions to Crimea, the G-7 nations have effectively conceded Crimea. They threatened “sectoral sanctions” if Putin further bulldozed international law by gobbling up more of Ukraine or plowing into Moldova. Weak or strong, Putin enforces the new Crimean status quo. All he’s lost is Russia’s G-8 membership pin and decoder ring.

21f8ff404ae8a0dc78db6ac4d7605447Read the rest at the link.

One of our astronauts hitched a ride yesterday. Leaving politics behind, Russian-U.S. crew blasts off for space | Reuters

Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut blasted off for six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, a partnership unaffected by the political rancor and economic sanctions triggered by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The trip to the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 260 miles above Earth, was scheduled to take about six hours. However, an unknown problem caused the crew’s Soyuz capsule to skip two planned steering maneuvers, delaying the crew’s arrival until Thursday.

“The crew is in no danger. The Soyuz (is) equipped with plenty of consumables to go even beyond the next two days, should that be become necessary. Nobody expects that that will be the case,” mission commentator Rob Navias said during a NASA Television broadcast.

 

558a1149bb572582b62fb754a235f37cMy son has a sinus infection, and was home from school yesterday…so he watched the launch live.

At Least Russia and the U.S. Still Get Along in Outer Space – NationalJournal.com

NASA, however, is not worried about the Ukraine crisis taking a toll on space exploration.

“We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have an impact on our long-standing civil space cooperation with Russia, which goes back decades, including our partnership on the International Space Station program,” said NASA spokesman Joshua Buck in a statement to National Journal. “We are confident that our two space agencies will continue to work closely as they have throughout various ups and downs of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship.”

The International Space Station has indeed weathered terrestrial political storms in the past. “It doesn’t appear that we are affected by what’s going on diplomatically with the Russians,” Al Sofge, director of NASA’s human exploration and operations division, has said of the conflict in Syria and Russia’s protection of American whistle-blower Edward Snowden. “I don’t know that we’ve ever even discussed it.”

After 16 years in orbit, the International Space Station is truly a bilateral effort. The station, divided into American and Russian segments, uses American solar arrays and power systems, Russian life-support systems, and a navigation system that comes from both nations.

61fb77482bb012d4afdb794135b78746The U.S. and Russia first collaborated in space in July 1975, when a Soviet Soyuz capsule carrying two cosmonauts docked with a U.S. Apollo module carrying three astronauts. In the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. asked Russia to join its work on the International Space Station. Russia was too financially strapped to build a program of its own, BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom explained in 2012, and the U.S. was behind schedule on the project and needed help.

This “reluctant codependency,” as NBC space analyst James Oberg dubbed it, persists to this day. At the International Space Station, Russia depends on NASA’s electronics and communications technology, which are more advanced. The U.S. depends on Roscosmos, the Russian federal agency, to send its astronauts to space. After NASA retired its space-shuttle program in 2011, Russia became the sole nation with the capability of carrying astronauts and cargo to and from space. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine.

While Jake was watching that rocket take off, I told him the Russians would not mess up that arrangement, they are getting paid. How much?

Right now, NASA pays $70.7 million per seat to send its astronauts to space on Russian Soyuz capsules, $8 million more than a previous agreement. But by 2017, NASA officials say the U.S. should be able to send its astronauts to the International Space Station on its own, thanks to private American spaceflight companies.


bfc76f7e8d948480492ab98762023746I will put this other link here for you, Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For One Hell Of A Coincidence, where an article in the Business Insider by Michael Kelley is asking the question:

 

U.S. officials think that Russia recently obtained the ability to evade U.S. eavesdropping equipment while commandeering Crimea and amassing troops near Ukraine’s border.

The revelation reportedly has the White House “very nervous,” especially because it’s unclear how the Kremlin hid its plans from the National Security Agency’s snooping on digital and electronic communications.

One interesting fact involved is the presence of Edward Snowden in Russia, where he has been living since flying to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.

In July, primary Snowden source Glenn Greenwald told The Associated Press that Snowden “is in possession of literally thousands of documents that contain very specific blueprints that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

So it’s either a crazy coincidence that the Russians figured out how to evade NSA surveillance while hosting the NSA-trained hacker, or else it implies that Snowden provided the Russians with access to the NSA’s blueprint.

ad91d1fe340080ba3d708415fa8cd55eNo doubt Kelley’s article is going to draw a massive screed from Double G and the usual suspects.  But as the people who support Snowden’s actions remind us, we need to have a serious debate about American intelligence capabilities, and that includes debating the consequences of someone with the vast knowledge of these capabilities defecting to a foreign country.

I’ve said on a number of occasions that the actions of Snowden and his partners are not consistent with the goal of reigning in the NSA through existing means, but very consistent with the goal of taking it upon themselves to irreparably damage our intelligence-gathering abilities as a lesson to the Unites States government.

The threats have been made that if anything happens to Snowden, the full trove of information would be leaked.

Zandar asks…

It’s a reasonable question to ask if that’s already happened.

5d1338d26584ed11f5ecee7dd896309aSo, over at CNN they are looking for news since their 24/7 coverage of MH Flight 370 is coming to a close….Two CNN Producers Arrested in Sad Attempt to Break into the WTC Site

Two CNN producers were arrested today after trying—and failing miserably—to break into the World Trade Center site for a story about people who successfully broke in.

A CNN spokesperson said that producers Connor Boals, 26, and Yon Pomrenze, 35, were on assignment “but were not asked to sneak onto the WTC site.”

According to reports, the pair first tried to talk their way past security guards into the heavily guarded construction site. When that failed, they tried scaling a nearby fence. Both times officers merely turned them away.

The tipping point came on their third attempt, when they tried to forcibly push their way through a security checkpoint.

That coup de grâce got Boals and Pomrenze cuffed and booked on criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct charges.

4bf0f9fa812baf0dacba764f4cdd93c8Sad…sad…sad…when all they had to do was head on over to Jersey: Body parts injure 4 after man killed by train

A man was struck and killed by a train Tuesday in a gruesome scene that left others on the New Brunswick Station platform injured.

Preliminary eyewitness accounts suggest that the man was struck after leaning into the path of the oncoming train while standing on the station platform.

As a result of the collision, at least four other people waiting on the platform were struck by parts of the man’s body, officials said.

The incident happened at about 5 p.m. EDT and involved a New York-bound Northeast Corridor train carrying about 300 passengers, NJ Transit spokesman John Durso said.

1240957702d17d444ef8d846a8420c41Three of the four people who were hurt went to the hospital with injuries…eek! Now that is a “story” those producers could have gotten into…dirty laundry there. Literally.

 

Back to the MH370 for a moment: Families of Flight MH370 Victims Issue Blistering Statement | Vanity Fair

The families on the receiving end didn’t take kindly to the message or the manner in which it was delivered. Families gathered in Beijing read a blistering rebuke of Malaysian Airlines and authorities on Monday:

“At 10pm on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian ocean and no people survived. 

From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers’ families and cheat the whole world.

This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.

If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.

cbb4858fba066dab03fa9df6171a770dWe will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three.”

Malaysia Airlines claims a representative for the company told the assembled families in person, and that phone calls and SMS messages were only sent to relatives who were not in the family-support center.

The rest of the links are in quick dump fashion:

What happens when a female student in a hot pink top walks through Cairo University? – News – Student – The Independent

A shocking video shows a female student being sexually harassed as she walks through her campus at Cairo University in Egypt.

Wearing a pink top and tight jeans, the young woman is whistled and shouted at as she makes her way through the site amongst a growing group of men following her.

54ed3e8e1cff5ddfbb033982fed1f78dUniversity guards are seen in the clip, which has gone viral on social media, escorting her off the premises after she hid in a toilet to escape the group, who were allegedly trying to remove her clothes.

The school Dean blamed the girl of course…video at the link.

From the fuckwads in my state, In Georgia, Carry a Gun, Just Not in the Capitol – NYTimes.com

There’s a lot of concern about new legislation in Georgia that expands how people can buy, carry and use guns. It reduces some licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground” defense should they feel threatened and decide to open fire. Some critics were calling it the “guns everywhere” law. That’s so unfair. Georgia’s lawmakers are not allowing everyone’s safety to be endangered by gun-slinging people. They are deeply concerned, for example, with their own.

The bill, passed on Thursday and awaiting the governor’s signature, will, among other things, allow people to carry concealed weapons into more places — including ones, like bars, which conveniently enough are spots where they are likely to be put to use.

They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. Even toting a gun in secured areas will merely be a misdemeanor in Georgia as long as you did it by mistake. After all, who among us has not had the embarrassing experience of forgetting they were carrying their Glock semiautomatic through airport security?

put em up (louise adler in a promo shot for the match in which she defeated joe rivers, 1926)Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House tried — and failed — to require colleges and churches to allow concealed weapons. The law bans them on college campuses (thank goodness for that, at least) and requires armed Georgians to get permission from their church before they go to Sunday services packing heat.

But, while patting themselves on the back for protecting the Second Amendment rights of their fellow citizens and dismissing any notion that guns could be a danger to the public, Georgia lawmakers were careful to continue to ban the carrying of weapons in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capitol itself, though guns are welcomed in buildings without screening.

aa99047510b526beb2a9c32518e0b111How thoughtful of them.

Barbara Boxer: Why no Viagra complaints? – Tal Kopan – POLITICO.com

As the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the Obamacare mandate on birth control coverage, Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned why those up in arms about the requirement have no problem with most insurance covering Viagra.

“I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into,” Boxer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.”

Yeah, isn’t every sperm sacred?

After 27 years, Burger King Baby finds birth mom, feels pure joy

A woman who, as a newborn, was abandoned in the bathroom of a Pennsylvania fast-food restaurant said Tuesday she has found her birth mother just three weeks after launching a search that garnered worldwide attention.

Next…another blast from 80s’ past, an interview with Boy George: Boy George Discusses New Album, Gender Identity, Madonna And More

BOY GEORGE

If you’re ever given 60 minutes to sit down with Boy George, one of the most beloved pop icons of the 20th century, in a private club on the west side of Manhattan in the middle of February, take them.

In the course of that hour, you’ll not only be treated to stories about how as a teen, his brothers would cross the street so they didn’t have to be seen with him and find out if he ever considered transitioning to the other end of the gender binary, but you’ll also quickly realize that he is one of the most thoughtful — and refreshingly honest — interview subjects you’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering.

cbca6008e95235ed0e672a50a1753923Next, tales of animals…remember that zoo in Copenhagen? The one that killed the young giraffe and butchered it then fed it to the lions?

Look what the zoo did to the lions: Danish zoo that killed giraffe puts down four lions

Two lions and their two 10-month-old cubs, all from the same family, were put down on Monday to make way for a new male after the zoo failed to find a new home for the felines.

Copenhagen Zoo said in a statement: “Because of the pride of lions’ natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves”.

The cubs “would have been killed by the new male lion as soon as he got the chance,” it added.

1a6487da34751cbe267773eaa6dcaaaeWTF? Am I right?

On the case of inbreeding and genetic defects…no I am not talking about Banjoville, Birth Defects In Last Woolly Mammoths Suggest Inbreeding May Have Led To Species’ Extinction

Scientists studying 12,000-year-old mammoth fossils unearthed near the North Sea discovered that many of them had extra ribs along their neck vertebrae. Cervical ribs, while innocuous on their own, are usually a sign that something went wrong during the animal’s development and are associated with chromosome abnormalities and even cancer.

Researchers found that cervical ribs were 10 times more common in woolly mammoths from the North Sea than in modern elephants. Scientists were stunned to find such a high rate of cervical ribs among European woolly mammoths.

[...]

c9b35a5b9b503c99e6692addb351750e“The high incidence and large size of the cervical ribs [in woolly mammoths] indicates a strong vulnerability, given the association of cervical ribs with diseases and congenital abnormalities in mammals,” the researchers noted in a study published in the journal PeerJ. “The vulnerable condition may well have contributed to the eventual extinction of the woolly mammoths.”

Scientists theorized that there are two possible explanations for the high frequency of cervical ribs in the last of the mammoths. The first is that there was rampant inbreeding among the last mammoth populations. This theory fits nicely with the idea that climate change fragmented the woolly mammoth’s habitat, isolating small pockets of the animals from each other. These groups would have lost their genetic variation through inbreeding, which would have made them susceptible to abnormalities and disease.

The second theory is that woolly mammoth mothers suffered prenatal stress due to outside factors like famine and disease.

298ffe3ca111580ab030cbe356597c34And finally, Goats are far more clever than previously thought

Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers at Queen Mary University of London.

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Zoology today, the scientists trained a group of to retrieve food from a box using a linked sequence of steps; first by pulling a lever with their mouths and then by lifting it to release the reward.

The goats’ ability to remember the task was tested after one month and again at 10 months. They learned the task within 12 trials and took less than two minutes to remember the challenge.

01c3b3abfac3402491e3c50d798f1a9a“The speed at which the goats completed the task at 10 months compared to how long it took them to learn indicates excellent long-term memory,” said co-author Dr Elodie Briefer, now based at ETH Zurich.

Before each learning session, some of the goats had the opportunity to watch another goat to demonstrate the task.

Dr Briefer added: “We found that those without a demonstrator were just as fast at learning as those that had seen demonstrations. This shows that goats prefer to learn on their own rather than by watching others.”

Wow, I wonder if a goat could learn that the birth control pill does not = an abortion? Yeah, they sound like they are smarter than some of the Supremes sitting on the bench.

Have a great day, and let us know what you are reading and thinking about today.


Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads

Spring is on the way!

Spring is on the way!


 

Good Afternoon!!

I woke up this morning with my eyes so scratchy and watery that I couldn’t read anything on-line until I took a long hot shower. It’s either a cold, a sinus infection, or very early pollen in the air–or maybe all three. Who knows? Anyway, I’m feeling better now.

There’s plenty of news this morning, but not a lot of *new news,* if you know what I mean. The Middle East is still in chaos, Malaysian Airlines 370 is still missing, Republicans are still insane; yet the Earth still continues to turn on its axis. I’ve tried to find a few stories worthy of your attention–I’ll let you be the judge.

UPDATE (11:57 Eastern):

There actually is some breaking news from Ukraine. BBC News is reporting that Russian troops storm[ed a] Ukraine airbase in Crimea, shots fired.

Shooting and explosions have been heard as Russian troops – backed by armoured vehicles – stormed a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea.

Reports say at least one person was injured during the assault on Belbek base, near Sevastopol. The base is now said to be under Russian control.

Earlier, several hundred unarmed protesters seized a Ukrainian naval base at Novofedorivka, western Crimea.

Pro-Russian militia has also been seizing Ukrainian Navy ships.

The BBC’s Ian Pannell, in Crimea, says the Ukrainian troops on the peninsula feel beleaguered and abandoned by their chiefs in Ukraine….

In Belbek, two armoured personnel carriers burst through the wall of the base followed by Russian troops firing weapons in the air.

An ambulance was then seen entering the base amid reports that at least one person was injured.

The Ukrainian soldiers were later gathered at the base main square in front of the heavily armed Russian troops.

The storming followed an ultimatum by the Russians to surrender.

Did you hear that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blocked Twitter in his country?

Reuters: Furious reaction, political split after Turkey bans Twitter.

A court blocked access to Twitter after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s defiant vow, on the campaign trail on Thursday ahead of March 30 local elections, to “wipe out” the social media service, whatever the international community had to say about it.

Industry Minister Fikri Isik said talks with Twitter were taking place and the ban would be lifted if the San Francisco-based firm appointed a representative in Turkey and agreed to block specific content when requested by Turkish courts.

Twitter turkey

What’s Erdogan’s problem with social media?

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years, is battling a corruption scandal that has been fed by social media awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing. He did not mention the Twitter ban at two campaign rallies on Friday.

Turkey’s main opposition party said it would challenge the ban and file a criminal complaint against Erdogan on the grounds of violating personal freedoms. The country’s bar association filed a separate court challenge.

Twitter users called the move a “digital coup”, some comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled. There were also calls for protests.

“Waking up to no Twitter in Turkey feels like waking up to a coup. The modern equivalent of occupying the radio stations,” U.S. author and journalist Andrew Finkel, who has reported from Turkey for more than 20 years, said on his Twitter account.

This morning Reuters reports that

Turks attempting to access Twitter have found an Internet page carrying court rulings saying that a “protection measure” has been taken, blocking the site.

But many have been able to get around the ban, either by using virtual private network (VPN) software or changing their Domain Name System (DNS) setting, effectively disguising their computers’ geographical whereabouts.

By Saturday, though, computers that had been set with DNS numbers widely circulated to help people get around the ban were not able to access the Internet at all.

“Apparently alternate DNS servers are also blocked in Turkey. New settings are being circulated,” wrote one Twitter user.

Apparently twitter is very popular in Turkey. The Washington Post has lots more reactions to the Turkish Twitter ban.

I know everyone is sick of the missing MH370 story, so I’ll just give you one link to a minor update.

WaPo: Australia expands search for missing jetliner as China investigates new satellite image.

Chinese satellite image

Chinese satellite image

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China released a new image of a “suspected floating object” in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, in the vicinity of an Australian-led search that has brought fresh hope to the hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.

China has sent ships to investigate, according to the Malaysian government.

The Chinese government said one of its satellites spotted the object on March 18, about 75 miles west of the location released by Australia earlier this week.

A grainy image of the latest find was tweeted Saturday by Chinese state television, CCTV. It is dated two days after the two images released by Australia.

The search for the missing airliner has now entered a third week, with the main hope for a breakthrough hinging on planes and ships being able to locate floating objects picked up by satellites in a desolate stretch of ocean almost as close to Antarctica as to Australia.

Michelle Obama is on a good will tour of China with her mother and two daughters. Time reports on the First Lady’s defense of “the free internet” in a speech at Peking University.

First Lady Michelle Obama used a trip to China Saturday to promote the liberating “power of technology” in a veiled swipe at the harshly restrictive Internet and media environment in the country.

At her first—and only—major speech scheduled during her…trip…Obama said that new technology can “open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations we could never have imagined.”

“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” she said. “Because that’s how we discover the truth, that’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities, in our country and our world.”

President Xi Jinping and his wife welcomed U.S. first lady and her mother and daughters

President Xi Jinping and his wife welcomed U.S. first lady and her mother and daughters


 

I never watch the Sunday talk shows, because they are horrible; but Paul Waldman of WaPo’s The Plum Line apparently hasn’t given up on them.

Waldman asks: Can the Sunday shows get better?

Most members of Congress would kill to be interviewed on one of the shows, since getting such an appearance instantly brands you as an important person whose opinions are worth listening to. But “Meet the Press,” the oldest and most venerated of the shows, has been struggling of late, falling behind “This Week” and “Face the Nation” in the ratings, leading to some rumors about David Gregory’s future. But as Michael Calderone reports in the Huffington Post, the network is “doubling down” on Gregory as it tries to gingerly step its way into the digital world. The problem, though, is what they put on the air every Sunday.

There’s a conceit about the Sunday shows, that they hold the powerful accountable. It’s where “newsmakers” come to be raked over the coals, unable to escape the probing queries of savvy and unrelenting interrogators. But it’s awfully hard to watch the shows and believe that’s true. What happens instead is that the powerful come on the shows, and the hosts try (and almost always fail) to trap them with various kinds of “gotcha” questions, which the powerful handle by returning again and again to their carefully planned messages. The result, even for those of us who love listening to and talking about politics and policy, is remarkably tedious.

Meet the press

So how can these awful shows be improved?

Let me make a couple of suggestions I know they’d never consider. First, ban all party chairs, White House communication staff, party “strategists,” and anyone else whose primary objective is to spin from ever, ever, ever appearing on the show. Ever. To ask a question I’ve raised elsewhere: Has anyone anywhere in the United States turned off their TV and said, “Wow, that interview with Reince Priebus was really interesting”? Of course not, and the same applies to his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. That’s because their job is to deliver talking points, and they do so with a discipline worthy of the Marine Honor Guard, no matter what questions they’re asked. And they get plenty of time on cable, so why waste valuable minutes on a Sunday show by letting them repeat the same talking points they’ve recited 100 times that that week?

And while we’re at it, why not go farther and cut down the interviews with elected officials and candidates by three-quarters or so? I’m serious. When was the last time you saw a truly edifying interview on a Sunday show with a senator or member of Congress? If you want to talk about what’s going on in Ukraine, I could hardly care less what John McCain (the shows’ most frequent guest) thinks about it, and I doubt I’m alone. He knows next to nothing about the situation, and as a minority party senator with almost no support among his colleagues, he’ll have precisely zero impact on the outcome of events. So how about, as a first rule, the people you bring on should 1) know as much as possible about the things you’re going to discuss, and 2) have little if any interest in spinning?

Good luck with that. I’d say the very best thing that could be done is to ban both John McCain and Lindsey Graham from ever appearing on Sunday shows. And for heaven’s sake get rid of David Gregory and put Bob Schieffer permanently out to pasture. BTW, Bob’s guest tomorrow will be Mitt Romney because he undoubtedly has all the answers on what’s up with Russian and Ukraine.

A few more quick hits . . .

Politico: Judge strikes down Mich. same-sex marriage ban

Reuters: Pope appoints former child victim to church group on sex abuse

Talking Points Memo: Creationists Complain Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Isn’t Giving Them Airtime

Business Insider: North Dakota State Is America’s Team

So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a terrific weekend!


Saturday News Potpourri

Draper-Pot_Pourri

Good Morning!!

I have quite a few articles to share this morning, a real Saturday potpourri! So let’s get started. First up, on Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder gave a wide-ranging interview to Ari Melber of MSNBC, and quite a bit of breaking news came out of it. Here are some of the resulting headlines: NY Daily News: Eric Holder: Could talk deal with NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, but no clemency

Holder told MSNBC that the Obama Administration “would engage in a conversation” about a resolution in the case, but said it would require Snowden acknowledge wrongdoing…. At a University of Virginia forum, where Holder was asked about Snowden, he  elaborated on his position, saying, “If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We would do the same with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty, so that is the context to what I said.” But he stressed that the NSA leaker would not walk. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider.”

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Seattle PI: Holder: Marijuana banking regulations on the way

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers. During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to enable places that sell marijuana to have access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around. Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

There’s a good piece about this at Forbes, but they won’t even let you copy their headlines anymore. Mediaite: Eric Holder: Voter ID Used to ‘Depress the Vote’ of People Who Don’t Support GOP

Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized state-level voter identification policies and said that he believes those policies are a “remedy in search of a problem.” He added that, while some may be arguing for voter ID in good faith, he believes that most are advocating for this policy in order to “depress the vote” of those who do not support the “party that is advancing” voter ID measures. “I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” Holder said of voter ID. “People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he continued. “But when it is used in — certain ways to disenfranchise particular groups of people, whether by racial designation, ethnic origin, or for partisan reasons, that from my perspective is problematic.” He added that “all the studies” show that in-person voter fraud “simply does not exist” at a level that requires a legislative solution.

Politico: Eric Holder: Timing of Robert Gates book release ‘a mistake’

Attorney General Eric Holder waded into the controversy over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new book Thursday, calling it “a mistake” for Gates to have published his recollections before President Barack Obama left the White House. “It’s my view that it’s just not a good thing thing to write a book about a president that you served while that president is still in office,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “From my perspective I think the world of Bob Gates, but I think that the publication of that book — at least at this time — was a mistake.” [....] In the course of offering his critique of the timing of Gates’s book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Holder twice praised the former defense secretary for his leadership. “I like Bob Gates a great deal. He was a good secretary of defense,” the attorney general said.

LA Times: Holder says no bank ‘too big to indict,’ more financial cases coming

“I think people just need to be a little patient,” Holder said, according to a transcript of an interview with MSNBC to air at noon Pacific time Friday. “I know it’s been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline.” [....] Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were “so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them” because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even world economies. Since then Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges it believed it could prove.

As I said, quite a bit of news out of one interview. Good job by Ari Melber.

In other news . . .

The Economist has a brief article that provides some background on the situation in Ukraine: On the march in Kiev –The protests turn nasty and violent, but the president is not giving ground. ukraine-protests-2

JANUARY 22nd was meant to mark Ukraine’s unity day, a celebration of its short-lived pre-Soviet independence. Instead, it was a day of civil unrest and perhaps the biggest test of Ukraine’s post-Soviet integrity. After two months of largely peaceful encampment on the Maidan in Kiev, the protests turned violent. Five people were reported killed and hundreds were injured. An armoured personnel carrier pushed through the streets. Clouds of black smoke and flames mottled the snow-covered ground. Never in its history as an independent state has Ukraine witnessed such violence. It was triggered by the passage of a series of repressive laws imposing tight controls on the media and criminalising the protests of the past two months. One law copied almost verbatim a Russian example, including stigmatising charities and human-rights groups financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. If Russian human-rights activists denounce their parliament as a “crazy printer” churning out repressive legislation, says Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, Ukraine has a “crazy photocopier”. The clashes show vividly the refusal of the protesters to heed such laws.

Brian Glyn Williams, the U. Mass Dartmouth professor who interacted with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and recommended some sources of information on Chechnya for a report Tsarnaev was writing, has a post up at HuffPo on how the history of Chechya and Dagestan is coming back to haunt the Winter Olympics in Russia: The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide. Here’s the conclusion:

The twin bombings in Volgograd in late December 2013 and an earlier one in October are clearly meant to show the Russians that the Chechen-Dagestani terrorists have reignited their terror jihad. They are also meant to remind the world of the tragedy that befell the Circassians of the Caucasus’s Black Sea shore exactly 150 years ago this winter. This is the dark secret that Russia’s authoritarian leader, Putin, does not want the world to know. Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

erik prince Remember Erik Prince, the Michigan millionaire who founded Blackwater? Guess what he’s doing these days? The WSJ has the scoop: Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China. Erik Prince —ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater —calls himself an “accidental tourist” whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was “blowtorched by politics.” To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he’s a patriot who has repeatedly answered America’s call with bravery and creativity.

Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa’s resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in…. “I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next,” says the crew-cut 44-year-old. Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he “kept saying ‘yes’ as the demand curve called—Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11.” In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was “completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer”—the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to “churn up the entire federal bureaucracy” and sic it on Blackwater “like a bunch of rabid dogs.” According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince,” and congressional staffers promised, “We’re going to ride you till you’re out of business.”

Awwwwww…..Poor little rich boy. Where’s my tiny violin?

a09bc_worlds-smallest-violin

Speaking of entrepreneurs, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plans for his latest acquisition–The Washington Post–are becoming clearer, as he hires more right wing libertarians for the op-ed page. Now Pando Daily reveals what Don Graham is up to now that he’s dumped the family business: The company formerly known as WaPo moves into tech apps.

Today, the company formerly known as WaPo — now called Graham Holdings – has announced a new business endeavor in journalism. Surprisingly, said endeavor doesn’t have much to do with actual journalism at all — it falls squarely in the tech camp. It’s a content discovery app called Trove. Trove fits in the now-torrential trend of such applications. Companies like Flipboard,Prismatic, Rockmelt, and N3twork have all tread this ground long before Trove. They’re all convinced that places like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS readers are not good enough for finding the best stories…. The two men behind Trove have rich and storied histories. Vijay Ravindran, the CEO of Trove, served as The Washington Post’s Chief Digital Officer before the sale, and ran ordering at Amazon for seven years before that. Reuters oped columnist Jack Shafer even divpredicted (incorrectly) that Ravindran would be named the new WaPo publisher after the sale. The other Trove heavyweight is product lead Rob Malda, who is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Slashdot — the predecessor of every user-focused news aggregator since, from Digg to Reddit to Hacker News.

Read all about it at the above link.

A few short takes:

In other tech news, CSM’s Security Watch reports that Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’. Author Dan Murphy asks, “Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?” Read it and weep.

According to Fox News, gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Ruger will no longer do business in California because they don’t want to comply with a new CA law that allows law enforcement to trace bullets to the individual gun they came from. After all, why would gun companies want to help police catch murderers? Unbelievable!

Did you know that this month is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove? IMHO, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. Well, Eric Schlosser has a not-so-funny article about it at The New Yorker: ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE. Don’t miss this one; it’s a must read!

Apparently the latest food craze to emerge from San Francisco is “artisanal toast.” How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer. John Gravois writes about it at Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Weird.

A silly test to take at Buzzfeed: Which Pop Diva Are You? I got Pink. I know nothing about her…but she looks kinda cool. PINK

Finally, I posted this link in the comments recently, but I don’t know if anyone looked at it. I’m posting it again, because I think it’s absolutely adorable. It’s some glamour shots of elderly people having fun dressing up and posing as various movie heroes and heroines. Here’s just one example:

"Easy Rider": Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

“Easy Rider”: Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

I hope you found something to tickle your fancy in this potpourri of articles. Now it’s your turn. Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday Reads: Snowstorm, On-line Harassment, Profiling Snowden, and Other News

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Good Morning!!

Looks like another big snowstorm is headed my way this afternoon. Blizzard warning south of Boston, winter storm warning for most areas.

Overnight the watches were converted to warnings meaning the likelihood of blizzard conditions and snow exceeding 6 inches has increased. The morning commute will be dry and you will see some dim sunshine. The snow begins this afternoon along the coast and the evening commute will be impacted. The storm is most intense overnight and ends during the morning from west to east on Wednesday….There is a blizzard warning up for Cape Cod, coastal Massachusetts south of Boston, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

At least I’m not in the blizzard zone for the moment. This appears to be a really big storm. I saw on Twitter this morning that there were whiteout conditions in St. Louis. You can watch a video update the Weather Channel page.

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States:

NBC News reports: Winter storm set to ‘go bananas’ across Northeast.

With memories of the dreaded polar vortex still fresh, winter deals another blow Tuesday, slamming the Northeast with a blast of cold air and up to a foot of snow.

“They are going to have quite a snowstorm,” said Kevin Roth, a lead meteorologist with theWeather Channel. “By this evening, all four cities from Philadelphia to Boston could face a pretty bad commute home. We’re expecting a good six to 10 inches. It will be snowing pretty hard.”

“Every once in while these little winter storms go bananas and we think this might be the one,” he added.

Yikes! What the heck does that mean? The story doesn’t explain. But meteorologists are begging us not to call it a “polar vortex.”

Temperatures are set to drop again in the Midwest and Northeast starting Sunday, a forecast that already is prompting the return of the phrase “polar vortex” — widely used to describe the blast of cold air that chilled the U.S. earlier this month. But while the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the interior Northeast will experience below-average temperatures in the coming week, don’t call it a “polar vortex,” meteorologists say.

The “polar vortex” is a real weather phenomenon, just not one that actually visits the United States, they say. It’s actually a circular weather pattern that has always been stationed above the Arctic, explains weather.com.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the swirling high-altitude system never moves into the U.S., though parts of it can “break off” and push cold air south.

The cold experienced in early January was actually a result of the polar vortex weakening, becoming warmer and therefore releasing its powerful chill beyond its normal reach through the northern climes, NOAA says.

Weather experts at NOAA said the intense cold air the U.S. has experienced is in fact a result of a warming world and increasing climate variability. While researchers cannot yet determine whether the fluctuations are a result of natural patterns or environmental effects, meteorologists can predict that parts of the U.S. will see freezing weather again in the coming days as a result of a polar vortex breakdown.

Anyway, I’m going to have to rush around this morning. I have a package to mail, and I need to get a couple of things at the grocery store. I do have some interesting reads for you today–some of them are pretty long, but well worth reading.

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Yesterday, via Tom Watson at Forbes, I came across an essay by long-time feminist blogger Amanda Hess that Watson says has been “widely discussed” for the past week or so. Somehow I missed it. Hess argues that on-line sexual harassment of women will be “the next civil rights issue.” In the essay, she writes about the frequent on-line attacks she and other female writers have experienced (warning: explicit and violent language)Here are the first few paragraphs.

I was 12 hours into a summer vacation in Palm Springs when my phone hummed to life, buzzing twice next to me in the dark of my hotel room. I squinted at the screen. It was 5:30 a.m., and a friend was texting me from the opposite coast. “Amanda, this twitter account. Freaking out over here,” she wrote. “There is a twitter account that seems to have been set up for the purpose of making death threats to you.”

I dragged myself out of bed and opened my laptop. A few hours earlier, someone going by the username “headlessfemalepig” had sent me seven tweets. “I see you are physically not very attractive. Figured,” the first said. Then: “You suck a lot of drunk and drug fucked guys cocks.” As a female journalist who writes about sex (among other things), none of this feedback was particularly out of the ordinary. But this guy took it to another level: “I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” And then: “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

My fingers paused over the keyboard. I felt disoriented and terrified. Then embarrassed for being scared, and, finally, pissed. On the one hand, it seemed unlikely that I’d soon be defiled and decapitated at the hands of a serial rapist-murderer. On the other hand, headlessfemalepig was clearly a deranged individual with a bizarre fixation on me. I picked up my phone and dialed 911.

Read the rest at the link. A number of women have written about this issue, and particularly about the lack of protection for women who are harassed on-line from law enforcement–even though the threats sometimes lead to real-life actions. A couple more recent examples:

Skepchick wrote in October about being harassed for her participation in the on-line atheist community, Why I Don’t Just Go to the Cops.

Amy Wallace wrote about her experiences in a NYT op-ed over the weekend: Life as a Female Journalist: Hot or Not?

Internet-Troll

Along similar lines, I came across this 2010 article in The Boston Globe that provides some insight into why some people spend so much time and energy writing angry comments on line: Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster. The author got an interview with a frequent commenter to The Boston Globe website. He also discusses the problems newspapers face in dealing with angry and trolling comments from anonymous people. Here’s an excerpt:

On Monday, May 17, at 2 p.m., a breaking news article headlined “Obama’s aunt given OK to stay in United States” hits the home page of Boston.com. In a matter of seconds, the first anonymous online comment appears. A reader with the handle of Peregrinite writes, “of course she can . . . can someone appeal.”

Certain topics never fail to generate a flood of impassioned reactions online: immigration, President Obama, federal taxes, “birthers,” and race. This story about Obama’s Kenyan aunt, who had been exposed as an illegal immigrant living in public housing in Boston and who was now seeking asylum, manages to pull strands from all five of those contentious subjects.

In the next few minutes, several equally innocuous posts follow, including a rare comment in favor of the judge’s decision. Then the name-calling begins. At 2:03 p.m., a commenter with the pseudonym of Craptulous calls the aunt, Zeituni Onyango, a “foreign free-loader.” Seconds later comes the lament from Redzone 300: “Just another reason to hate are [sic] corrupt government.”

News websites from across the country struggle to maintain civility in their online comments forums. But given their anonymous nature and anything-goes ethos, these forums can sometimes feel as ungovernable as the tribal lands of Pakistan.

Read much more at the link.

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Yesterday I also happened upon a fascinating article by national security and tech journalist Dan Verton. In the piece, Verton tries to come up with a psychological profile of NSA leaker Edward snowden: What does the history of insider espionage say about Edward Snowden?

He wasn’t the first and will certainly not be the last member of the U.S. intelligence community to betray the trust of his nation. But what do we really know about Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked thousands of documents detailing NSA’s domestic and global eavesdropping programs?

The truth is we know very little about Snowden beyond what the media outlets that have a vested interest in protecting him choose to report. But when viewed through the prism of the last 25 years of insider espionage, the Edward Snowden we do know seems to fit the typical profile of the trusted insider struggling to overcome personal and professional shortcomings, and suffering from a warped sense of moral superiority.

More than a decade worth of studies into the psychological profiles of malicious insiders have revealed several common characteristics that make information technology professionals — particularly system administrators, like Edward Snowden — an “at risk” population for malicious insider activity.

Verton discusses Snowden’s history in the light of a study of IT administrators who eventually sabotaged their employers in some way: Inside the Mind of the Insider, by Eric D. Shaw, Jerrold M. Post, and Keven G. Ruby. These are both fairly long pieces, but if you have any interest in the ongoing Snowden saga, they are must reads! A bit more from Verton:

Born in 1983, Snowden grew up in North Carolina and Maryland. His father was a Coast Guard officer and his mother worked as a court administrator. They divorced in 2001, and Snowden went to live with his mother. His parents claim Snowden was ill as a teenager and failed to graduate high school. He eventually studied at a local community college to obtain a G.E.D.

Snowden was 17 when al-Qaida launched its attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. At that time, he adopted an online persona he called “The One True Hooha” at the website Ars Technica, where he participated in chat forums for gamers and hackers. His studies at a local community college would once again fall short of a degree.

In 2003, Snowden decided to join the Army Reserve, and requested a chance to undergo evaluation training for Special Forces to, in his words, “fight to help free people from oppression.”

Yet again, the young Snowden would fall short. He was dropped from the program and discharged from the Army four months later. Snowden claims to have broken both of his legs during training, but to date has provided no evidence. The Army has confirmed his service, but would not release his service record summary, known as a DD-214.

“He comes from a family that has a high need for achievement, but his experience is one disaster after another,” Stock said.

Lots more educated speculation on Snowden’s motives at the link.

In other news . . .

Here’s a spy story I hadn’t heard about in the mainstream media. Report: Israel Passes U.S. Military Technology to China.

Secret U.S. missile and electro-optics technology was transferred to China recently by Israel, prompting anger from the U.S. and causing a senior Israeli defense official to resign.

The head of defense exports for the Israeli Defense Ministry resigned after a U.S. investigation concluded that technology, including a miniature refrigeration system manufactured by Ricor and used for missiles and in electro-optic equipment, was sent to China, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Another Israeli news site, Aretz Sheva, reports the U.S. is concerned the technology could ultimately find its way to Iran, which last year sought to buy military equipment from China for its nuclear program.

That sounds scarier than the stuff Glenn Greenwald has been dribbling out.

From The New Statesman, here’s an exhibit I’d love to see if only I were in London: A history of psychology, warts and mysteries and all.

It looks more like an art installation than the remains of a 400-year-old experiment: a life-size image of a man rendered in dark, angry scrawls on a wooden panel. It is, in fact, a human nervous system, painstakingly removed from a corpse by Italian medical students and then varnished on to the dissecting table. Scientists in the 17th century believed that human beings were animated by the “animal spirit” that flowed from the brain down the nerves.

The display is part of the “Mind Maps” exhibition at the Science Museum in London, which explores how people have tried to gain a better understanding of their minds.

That sounds amazing.

Finally, a funny story from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360: CNN reporter high during Anderson Cooper marijuana TV segment.

Poor Randi Kaye. The CNN reporter was sent to Denver for a week as part of the network’s “Gone to Pot” series, and in one of her later segments investigated dispensary tours that are being compared to Napa Valley wine tastings.

Kaye followed around a 72-year-old woman named Barbara Harvey, who is a huge fan of marijuana, and joined Harvey on a day-long dispensary tour where she spent much of her time in a limo being surrounded by people smoking marijuana with the windows rolled up. The CNN journalist tells Anderson Cooper she accidentally got a contact high after being stuck in a limo with Harvey for so long, though Cooper believes this is her “career highlight.”

At around the 4:30 mark in the above video, viewers can see Kaye in all her stoned glory. Kaye is all giggles and run-on sentences when talking about the cannabis business post-pot legalization in Colorado.

So . . . what are your recommended reads for today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Evening News….History, Hillary and Coprolite

88523948895929343_dQRlZJ2i_cGood Evening

Some interesting links for you tonight, all along the theme of bullshit, a piece of shit and more bullshit.

First let us get to the real turd of the evening, this is an ancient…prehistoric nugget. We are talking about a dump taken before time…before the era of the dinosaurs…imagine, Tapeworm Eggs Found in 270-Million-Year-Old Shark Poop.

270 million years ago, a shark pooped near the coast of Brazil. That poop was fossilized and preserved into a coprolite, which is the scientific term for fossilized poop. Scientists found that shark poop, and have been carefully studying it. We don’t know exactly what they were looking for, but we do know what they found — and it’s gross.

By carefully dissecting the shark poop into thin cross-sections, paleontologist Paula Dentzien-Dias of the Federal University of the Rio Grande found a group of 93 tapeworm eggs. The eggs are so small, about one-and-a-half times as wide as a human hair, and only found in one section of the coprolite sample.

“Luckily in one of them, we found the eggs,” said Dentzien-Dias. Lucky indeed! Where would we be without this story of fossilized tapeworm eggs inside fossilized shark poop?

The coprolite dates back to the Paleozoic era, before even the dinosaurs. That puts these tapeworm eggs at about 140 million years earlier than any intestinal parasites found in vertebrates, meaning they’ve been a problem for much longer than previously thought.

The scientist can’t tell what species of shark the coprolite is from, but what I find so intriguing is that tapeworms, like roaches, seem to have been around since the beginning of time.  Of course, don’t tell anyone from the religious right this news, cause the world is not that old!

2/1 Luckovich cartoon: Evolution | Mike Luckovich

020113-toon-luckovich-ed

Another fish story for you, Video Documents Thought In Fish Brain For The First Time

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics believe they’ve captured a world first video — images of a thought making it’s way through the brain of a zebrafish. It’s not a particularly complicated thought — essentially ‘Hey, that looks like it could be food.’ — but the fact that the team has imaged the very stuff of even simple thought for the first time is really kind of amazing — not unlike magic.

[...]

Researchers were able to image visual perception in the fish using a new tool designed just for the purpose — a super-sensitive fluorescent probe that detects neuron activity, causing neurons to light up when they’re activated. In this case, the images are of the activity in neurons as a zebrafish watches a paramecium flit around it, registering the movement of its prey. After this strong first showing, they’re hopeful that examples of the probe could be used to learn more about the ill-understood circuitry of the brain, and how connections between brain cells work together to produce thought or register and act on perception.

Video at the link.

This next article is thought provoking, Yoon Young-kwan: Asia Feels Like Pre-War Europe

Whether east Asia’s politicians and pundits like it or not, the region’s current international relations are more akin to 19th-century European balance-of-power politics than to the stable Europe of today.

Witness east Asia’s rising nationalism, territorial disputes and lack of effective institutional mechanisms for security co-operation. While economic interdependence among China, Japan, South Korea and the members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations continues to deepen, their diplomatic relations are as burdened by rivalry and mistrust as relations among European countries were in the decades prior to the First World War.

You can read more about this at The Scotsman.

Ah…now for the bullshit, a few links that make you scratch your head and wonder.

A new theory about Gandhi making headlines in The Telegraph, The truth about Mahatma Gandhi: he was a wily bigot, not India’s smiling saint.

The Indian nationalist leader had an eccentric attitude to sleeping habits, food and sexuality. However, his more controversial ideas have been written out of history

This week, the National Archives here in New Delhi released a set of letters between Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and a close friend from his South African days, Hermann Kallenbach, a German Jewish architect. Cue a set of ludicrous “Gay Gandhi” headlines across the world, wondering whether the fact the Mahatma signed some letters “Sinly yours” might be a clue (seemingly unaware that “sinly” was once a common contraction of “sincerely”).

The origin of this rumour was a mischievous book review two years ago written by the historian Andrew Roberts, which speculated about the relationship between the men. On the basis of the written evidence, it seems unlikely that their friendship in the years leading up to the First World War was physical.

It is a juicy article, go read the rest of it.

Maybe Seinfeld was on to something?  Gandhi his bald head in oil…

Then you have the bullshit, Conservative Former SNL Star Victoria Jackson Deletes ‘White History Month’ Article

Former Saturday Night Live star and current conservative celebrity Victoria Jackson has made a second career as a mascot for deranged opposition to President Barack Obama that includes calls for secession, statistical analyses of the white baby population, and comparing America to The Big Bopper on Election Night, but it looks like restraint has finally gotten the better of her. Wonkette’s Rebecca Schoenkopfcalled Jackson out earlier today for posting an article suggesting that the persecuted, underrepresented White Christian Male needs some scale-balancing, asking “Why is there a Black History Month but not a White History Month?”

Jackson also featured a video that lists “Things To Thank White People For,” which curiously did not include Baywatch (but does include “recorded music” without noting that black people invented all of the good recorded music) and listed some white accomplishments, on her own, for the ungrateful non-whites who control everything:

Just for the record, white men invented rockets, space travel, airplanes, the automobile, the English language, the U.S.A., most medical advances, electricity, television, telescope, microscope, Ivy League Universities, the computer, the Internet, and on and on. I think white men should be praised and respected. White Christian Conservative Men especially, should be loved and adored. They were the backbone and originators of the greatest nation on earth. We need more of them now.

I’m pretty sure that rockets were invented by Chinese people, and Ivy League Universities aren’t really inventions, and the first man to give his life for this country was black, and since black people did help out with that whole syphilis thing, maybe medical advances aren’t a fair example, but point taken. White people rule. That is the point, isn’t it?

You can read Jackson’s bullshit here: Google cache of Victoria Jackson’s White History Month

There is new information coming to light on the 10th Anniversary of the Columbia Explosion. Columbia Shuttle Crew Not Told of Possible Problem With Reentry

What would you tell seven astronauts if you knew their space shuttle was crippled on orbit?

It was a question that faced NASA’s Mission Control considered after initial suspicions that something might be wrong with the shuttle Columbia as it was making its doomed reentry in 2003.

Wayne Hale, who later became space shuttle program manager, struggled with this question after the deaths of the Columbia crew 10 years ago. Recently he wrote about the debate in his blog, recalling a meeting to discuss the dilemma:

“After one of the MMTs (Mission Management Team) when possible damage to the orbiter was discussed, he (Flight Director Jon Harpold) gave me his opinion: ‘You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System). If it has been damaged it’s probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don’t you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?”

A bleak assessment. Orbiting in space until your oxygen ran out. The dilemma for mission managers is that they simply didn’t know if the space shuttle was damaged.

The doomed astronauts were not told of the risk.

To me, that sounds like bullshit, these are scientist and pilots…they can handle the news professionally and should have known.

Makes me think of that line in Apollo 13, when the capsule is still shallow during re-entry:

Okay, lets end this post with some pictures, Hillary Clinton: 2 Decades in the Spotlight (Photos)

Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, will be Hillary Clinton’s last day as Secretary of State, ending a career in the public eye that has spanned more than two decades. While the question on everyone’s mind is “will she come back?” let’s take a look at what she has done.

Just go to that gallery link and enjoy!

This is an open thread.


One people, one planet, one pollution

I was hiking yesterday (23rd) and looked out to sea. This is what I saw.

An orange-brown band of dust? smog? all of the above? stretching over the whole horizon. There’s a larger composite picture here that shows more of the extent. (In the foreground, you can make out the Navy Seabees target practice range. That’s Anacapa Island shrouded in the distance.)

I’ve lived here for years and never seen anything like it. Ordinary Los Angeles pollution looks like this:

It’s more purple-colored, much fainter, and bigger toward LA, petering out toward the ocean. (The picture is from an old post where I was puzzling about wind direction.)

When I mentioned it at home, I found out that Beijing had an Airpocalypse around January 12th and the next few days, an immense pollution event that drowned the city in choking dusty smog.


View of Beijing smog. From aworldchaos.wordpress.com.

NASA regularly tracks Chinese pollution across the Pacific, but it wasn’t usually still as thick as soup by the time it got here.

Well, it is now. I’m fairly sure that’s what I was seeing. Dirt pushed across the whole Pacific ahead of a huge storm system that also brought us rain later on. One to two weeks is how long it takes to get here from China.

This is not good.

Crossposted from Acid Test


Tuesday Reads: Mostly Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning!!

Superstorm indeed. I just saw on the weather channel that we’re having high wind warnings and may even get snow here in central Indiana today. Exhaustion finally set in for me last night from drive 1,000 miles, so I’m writing this at 5:30 AM.

I had MSNBC, CNN, and the weather channel on a few times during the night, but most of the news was still about New York City only. You’d think something would have happened in other parts of New York state that was worth covering. Of course I don’t want to minimize how bad things are in NYC, It’s just that with a storm so huge, you’d think there might be some TV coverage of other places.

This morning they were actually talking about the snowstorm in West Virginia a little bit, but I have no idea if the storm did anything in New England. So let’s see what’s happening out there–largely in link dump fashion.

MSNBC: Sandy slams Northeast: 7M without power, nuclear plant on alert, homes swept away

Superstorm Sandy hurled a wall of water of up to 13 feet high at the Northeast coast, sweeping houses out into the ocean, flooding subway tunnels in New York City and sparking an alert at a nuclear power station in New Jersey.

At least 10 people were killed, more than 7 million were without power as the historic storm pounded some 11 states and the District of Columbia. More than a million people across a dozen states had been ordered to evacuate.

Power outages are expected to be widespread and could last for days. NBC meteorologist Bill Karins warned to “expect the cleanup and power outage restoration to continue right up through Election Day.”

The New York Times has massive coverage and lots of photos: Storm Barrels Ashore, Leaving Path of Destruction

The mammoth and merciless storm made landfall near Atlantic City around 8 p.m., with maximum sustained winds of about 80 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. That was shortly after the center had reclassified the storm as a post-tropical cyclone, a scientific renaming that had no bearing on the powerful winds, driving rains and life-threatening storm surge expected to accompany its push onto land.

The storm had unexpectedly picked up speed as it roared over the Atlantic Ocean on a slate-gray day and went on to paralyze life for millions of people in more than a half-dozen states, with extensive evacuations that turned shorefront neighborhoods into ghost towns. Even the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty left to ride out the storm at his mother’s house in New Jersey; he said the statue itself was “high and dry,” but his house in the shadow of the torch was not.

The wind-driven rain lashed sea walls and protective barriers in places like Atlantic City, where the Boardwalk was damaged as water forced its way inland. Foam was spitting, and the sand gave in to the waves along the beach at Sandy Hook, N.J., at the entrance to New York Harbor. Water was thigh-high on the streets in Sea Bright, N.J., a three-mile sand-sliver of a town where the ocean joined the Shrewsbury River.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said David Arnold, watching the storm from his longtime home in Long Branch, N.J. “The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

But, you know, global climate change–that’s not happening. It must be gay marriage that’s causing this.

There was a huge explosion at a Con-Ed power plant in lower Manhattan during the night. Here’s the viral video.

50 homes destroyed as six-alarm blaze rips through Queens

I’m relieved to see that Sandy’s wrath wasn’t quite as bad in New England.

Boston escapes major damage from Sandy: Fierce winds knock down trees, rattle houses, and cut electricity to thousands.

Sandy wreaks havoc on Conn. shore towns; 2 dead

Superstorm Sandy lashes NH with strong winds, rain

Maine gets high winds, heavy rain from superstorm Sandy; tens of thousands in the dark

Sandy brought snow to West Virginia.

President Obama signs West Virginia Emergency Declaration

And in Virginia…

Superstorm Sandy to stick around Virginia 1 more day with rain, wind and snow

In other news…

Think Progress: PA radio station runs misleading voter ID ad

Everyone’s talking about how Mitt Romney recommended getting rid of FEMA and making state handle their own disaster responses, but of course now he’s flip flopped once again, according to Politico: Romney would give more power to states, would not abolish FEMA

Here’s something incredible from Bloomberg: Romney Avoids Taxes via Loophole Cutting Mormon Donations

In 1997, Congress cracked down on a popular tax shelter that allowed rich people to take advantage of the exempt status of charities without actually giving away much money.

Individuals who had already set up these vehicles were allowed to keep them. That included Mitt Romney, then the chief executive officer of Bain Capital, who had just established such an arrangement in June 1996.

The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill. While Romney’s tax avoidance is legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become an issue in the campaign. President Barack Obama attacked him in their second debate for paying “lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”

In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity — the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing — to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefitting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Wow! This guy is the champion of sleezeballs! Too bad no no one is paying attention now that Sandy has taken over the next few news cycles.

The Hill: Bill Clinton: Mitt Romney’s Jeep-to-China ad is ‘biggest load of bull in the world’

Former President Clinton and Vice President Biden blasted Republican nominee Mitt Romney over a campaign ad that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China because of President Obama’s policies.

The Hill kinda-sorta tries to make it sound like the ad is OK and the Obama campaign is just whining!

The Obama campaign has complained about the Romney campaign’s Jeep ad, which links the president to a report saying Chrysler plans to move its Jeep production from the U.S. to China.

Chrysler released a statement on Monday saying it had no plans to stop producing Jeeps in the U.S.

The statement said, “U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

Yeah, because there’s two sides to every story even when one is a bald-faced, blatant, dirty lie.

Now it’s your turn. What’s going on where you are? I sure hope all you Sky Dancers are staying safe and warm.