I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.
I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.
So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.
Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:
Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.
The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:
A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.
On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.
Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.
Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama - promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda - had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.
Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.
The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.
Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.
And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.
Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.
A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.
A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.
The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.
Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.
The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.
A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….
The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.
The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.
The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.
Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:
Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders
Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated
New York Daily News: Another year of the gun
Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)
In other news,
Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah
It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah. The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause. The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists. The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.
I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:
Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional
I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:
The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties
Those are my offerings today. What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!
I think most of us that have lived awhile can attest to the fall in lifestyle and standards of living in the country. I think it’s been rather obvious that it’s much more difficult to “get ahead” more than at any other time in recent U.S. history. I ran across some interesting articles that sort’ve validated my gut feeling so I thought I’d share them with you. I hope you don’t find them too depressing. The first one indicates that the longevity of U.S. women just isn’t what it used to be. Why are U.S. women dying younger than their mothers?
Whether you think the Affordable Care Act is the right solution or a dangerous step toward tyranny, it’s hard to dispute that the U.S. health-care system is broken. More than 48 million people lack health insurance, and despite having the world’s highest levels of health-care spending per capita, the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes among developed nations, lagging behind in key metrics like life expectancy, premature death rates, and death by treatable diseases, according to a July study in theJournal of the American Medicine Association.
For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.
“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”
Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.
I’ve always thought that the American Lifestyle that you find touted on TV and at most restaurants and stores is really at odds with living well. Here’s an interesting list of items that also reminds me why I always wanted to just stay in Europe whenever I visited there. Are Europeans better at just living life? Here’s one of the statistics that makes me realize how overworked the U.S. worker is and why we all just sort’ve wear out at some point in time.
The top seven nations in the world, in terms of time off? All European. Austrians get 35 (35!) paid days off per year. Nobody criticizes them for being lazy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is the sole developed nation that requires no paid vacation time or holidays by law.
There’s a lot of fun comparisons there including cars, cheese, and sports. The link is good for a few smiles.
So, I lot of people subscribe to the idea of peak oil. I’ve always thought I’d really rather go solar or some alternative for energy in the future since fossil fuels have such incredible problems. I’m not all that concerned about an oil shortage, but a cocoa bean shortage? That’s a completely different matter!!!
The world will officially run out on October 2, 2020.
Industry experts met in London last week to discuss the impending meltdown.
Confectionery giants revealed there are just not enough cocoa plantations across the globe to feed the demand.
They warned we would need the equivalent of another planet Earth to fill the gap needed to keep the chocolate industry going.
Prices are set to soar over the next few years as chocolate becomes harder to get hold of.
As a result many big-name companies are expected to fill bars that are smaller in size with more nuts and fruit because they are cheaper to produce.
Chocolate taster and expert Angus Kennedy said: “There will be a chocolate shortage and there isn’t a solution to the problem. Seven years is what we think we have left.
“Experts have worked out we need 2.3 globes to accommodate man’s needs for chocolate in terms of forestry and space.
“We need another Earth basically if we carry on at this rate. We are destroying the whole thing.
“The problem we’ve got is that much of the space that was used for cocoa plantations is no longer there.
“The Chinese love their cars and they have found that rubber makes more money than cocoa and at a much quicker pace.
“Cocoa farms are being chopped down and turned into rubber plantations because they get a better yield.
“If you plant a cocoa plant you get cocoa beans in four years, which means the farmers are waiting four years for a profit so obviously they think ‘What is the point?’”
Manufacturers from all over the world including Iran, Belgium, Lebanon, Germany and Switzerland met at the British Library last week for the annual Chocolate Industry Network Conference where they heard the worrying news.
After a stint in the Marines, Archibald began his CIA career as a weapons man in the agency’s special activities division – the “knuckle-draggers,” as they’re known around headquarters – during the Bosnian civil war. From there, he made it into the agency’s elite spy corps, rising to the rank equivalent of general in Pakistan.
How Archibald got his new job remains a mystery to everyone Newsweektalked to. One source thought he’d caught the eye of David Petraeus, whose brief tenure as CIA chief was short-circuited in 2012 by an extramarital affair. Other agency veterans think current CIA director John Brennan liked the former Marine’s non-confrontational style. Bonus points: There was not a whiff of scandal in his background, unlike that of the acting chief, who was closely identified with harsh interrogations and passed over in favor of Archibald. She stayed on as his deputy.
One agency veteran has a more nuanced take on the appointment: “Brennan is his own clandestine ops chief.” Another added, “[Brennan] doesn’t like anyone to argue with him much.”
But there are plenty of things to argue over, insiders say, starting with the layers upon layers of assistants to deputy assistants that clog the agency’s chains of command. Many agency old-timers are also dismayed that the CIA’s core mission of spying on major adversaries seems to have been eclipsed by constant commando raids and drone strikes against terrorist targets. All that, they contend, diverts the agency’s finite resources, time and attention from finding out what’s really going on inside Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, China’s weapons labs or Iran’s nuclear program.
What does Frank Archibald think? Sorry. We can’t ask him.
The paycheck federal workers have been dreading hit bank accounts across the region Friday, representing salaries cut in half for most idled employees. The next payday will be all zeros, and with furloughs dragging on, civil servants are settling into a financial crouch, slashing expenses, canceling vacations, tapping retirement savings and taking second jobs.
“We have no income coming into the house right now, but the bills haven’t stopped,” said John Ferris of Falls Church. He is in a two-furlough marriage; both he and his wife, Lena, are locked out of jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency. With both of their paychecks dwindling, the family of six has put a scalpel to the household budget.
They’ve cut out restaurants and expensive groceries. Gone are the motel stays at their kids travel softball tournaments; instead, they drive all night. But the most painful cut has been a furlough of their own, laying off their autistic son’s longtime reading specialist.
“He’s been with our family for years, and I love him to death, but I thought, ‘Wow, how am I going to pay him if we don’t have paychecks coming,’ ” Lena Ferris said. She worries that one of the shutdown’s lasting aftershocks could be her son’s having to adjust to a new tutor. “He needs money, too,” she said of the tutor. “I’m worried he’s going to start working for another family.”
Federal workers say they were hugely relieved by last week’s House vote toguarantee the missed pay after the furlough’s over. But that hasn’t eased their anxiety over the bills stacking up in the meantime. Some parents are stretching to pay for day care they don’t need just so they don’t lose their slots while waiting to go back to work. All around the region, the furloughed are looking for money to satisfy their creditors or begging them for more time to pay their bills.
“A lot of our members have been asking to skip a payment,” said Pamela Hout, chief executive of the Census Federal a Credit Union. Her staff has been working a few hours a week at the nearly deserted Census Bureau headquarters in Prince George’s County to meet the demand. “We’ve been accommodating them; all they have to do is show us their [furlough] letter.”
I need to add one more thing before I sign off this morning. This is the month that we need to renew our domain and our ability to customize things here. The bill is about $100 per year so just a bit of a donation to the blog would be much appreciated. The specialized font comes due in about a month after that so any thing above that will be held until that comes due!!! Thanks so much!!!
So, that’s my little bit of this and that on a Friday. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? There was a double rainbow over Boston last night, and quite a few people took photos and videos of it. Here’s another shot of it over the harbor and seaport.
You can see more views of it here.
Some people said the rainbow must be a positive sign for the Boston Bruins, who are in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t work out that way though. The Blackhawks ended up winning game one, after what seemed like an endless triple-overtime hockey game.
In other local news, yesterday was the first day of the trial of 83-year-old Irish gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Opening statements were apparently riveting. It’s a shame the federal courts won’t allow TV cameras, because this trial is going to be an incredible show. Yesterday both sides gave their opening statements. From The Washington Post:
BOSTON — The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mob boss who allegedly helped scratch out 19 lives and ran this city’s underworld aided by corrupt FBI agents, got underway Wednesday morning almost 20 years after he fled the city on the eve of his indictment.
Now 83 and with just a bit of white hair left, Bulger wore a long-sleeve green shirt and jeans and listened without displaying any reaction as prosecutors laid out their 32 charges against him in a packed South Boston federal courtroom near the gangster’s old hangouts.
“It’s a case about organized crime, public corruption and all types of illegal activities,” federal prosecutor Brian Kelly said during opening statements. “He was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself. He was a hands-on killer.”
Kelly told the story of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims, Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, who prayed for his life before he was led to a cellar stairwell. “Barrett’s going downstairs to lie down for a while,” Bulger told an accomplice. Barrett walked down the stairs, and Bulger shot him the back, Kelly said.
Bulger’s rise as the city’s brutal organized crime leader was aided and abetted by corrupt FBI agents, who brushed off Bulger’s racketeering and violence in exchange for his help as an informant to bring down the local mafia, according to a lengthy ruling by a federal judge and other investigations.
On the defense side, (Hartford Courant)
Bulger lawyer Jay Carney made it clear in his remarks to the jury that much of the crime boss’s defense will be spent trying to discredit the government’s three chief witnesses. They are close former Bulger associates who agreed to turn on him for leniency or other considerations.
Carney argued to the jury that the three — John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks — will say whatever they think the government wants in order to protect their cooperation agreements. Among other things, he said, they are accusing Bulger of their crimes.
Martorano was sentenced to 14 years in prison for 20 murders. Weeks, once a Bulger protégé, got a shorter sentence for less serious offenses. Flemmi, Bulger’s long-time partner, got a life sentence, but was not exposed to possible death sentences for crimes in Florida and Oklahoma related to the gang’s attempt to takeover World Jai Alai, once one of the country’s largest pari-mutuel businesses.
Carney compared the federal prosecutors to chefs and the three witnesses to elaborately prepared meals.
‘What [we] are going to try to do is show you what happens in the prosecutors’ kitchen before the witness comes out,” Carney said.
I guess I’ve bored you with enough Boston news for today. Let’s see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Breaking . . . Edward Snowden Tells South China Morning Post US Hacks Into Hong Kong, China ComputersPosted: June 12, 2013
I’m no expert on the laws about revealing classified information to foreign governments, but this doesn’t sound very smart to me. Edward Snowden, who has leaked information about methods the NSA uses to collect data on Americans has now showed documents to the South China Morning Post to prove that the U.S. has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and China since at least 2009.
In a frank hour-long interview, the 29-year-old, who US authorities have confirmed is now the subject of a criminal case, said he was neither a hero nor a traitor and that:
US National Security Agency’s controversial Prism programme extends to people and institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China;
The US is exerting “bullying’’ diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him;
Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US;
He is in constant fear for his own safety and that of his family.
Snowden told the interviewer that none of the documents related to Chinese “military systems.”
One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets.
Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he said….
Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”.
“Not only does it do so, but it is so afraid of this being known that it is willing to use any means, such as diplomatic intimidation, to prevent this information from becoming public.”
What the hell? This guy is really starting to sound like a loose cannon. I’ll update with more info in the comment thread as I get it.