Lazy Saturday Reads: Signs of Life After the Snowpocalypse

 crocus snow

Good Morning!!

I can’t wait for spring flowers and warmer weather, can you tell? I have all the symptoms of Spring fever, including inability to concentrate on anything serious, like politics or plane crashes. But I’ll do my best to give you some interesting links on this lazy late March Saturday.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Amanda Knox has finally been freed to live her life without the bizarre Italian legal system breathing down her neck. From the Chicago Tribune: Amanda Knox conviction thrown out by Italian court, closing legal saga.

Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and her former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate’s murder through multiple trials and nearly four years in jail, was vindicated Friday when Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions once and for all.

“Finished!” Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out late Friday. “It couldn’t be better than this.”

The surprise decision definitively ends the 7½-year legal battle waged by Knox, 27, and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, 31, to clear their names in the gruesome 2007 murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher.

The supreme Court of Cassation panel deliberated for 10 hours before declaring that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding insufficient evidence to convict. Instead, had the court-of-resort upheld the pair’s convictions, Knox would have faced 28 ½ years in an Italian prison, assuming she would have been extradited, while Sollecito had faced 25 years.

“Right now I’m still absorbing what all this means and what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that’s been given to me,” Knox said late Friday, speaking to reporters outside her mother’s Seattle home.

This case has made me grateful that in the U.S. Constitution contains a double jeopardy clause.


Things are getting really ugly in Yemen. From The Washington Post: How the Yemen conflict risks new chaos in the Middle East.

The meltdown in Yemen is pushing the Middle East dangerously closer to the wider regional conflagration many long have feared would arise from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring revolts.

What began as a peaceful struggle to unseat a Yemeni strongman four years ago and then mutated into civil strife now risks spiraling into a full-blown war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran over a country that lies at the choke point of one of the world’s major oil supply routes.

With negotiators chasing a Tuesday deadline for the framework of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, it seems unlikely that Iran would immediately respond militarily to this week’s Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, analysts say.

But the confrontation has added a new layer of unpredictability — and confusion — to the many, multidimensional conflicts that have turned large swaths of the Middle East into war zones over the past four years, analysts say.

The United States is aligned alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and against them in Yemen. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who have joined in the Saudi offensive in Yemen, are bombing factions in Libya backed by Turkey and Qatar, who also support the Saudi offensive in Yemen. The Syrian conflict has been fueled by competition among all regional powers to outmaneuver one another on battlefields far from home.

Scary. All this because George W. Bush lied us into two needless, unwinnable wars.

Crocus in Boston

Ahramonline: Arab leaders pledge support to Yemen.

Although Saturday’s Arab League summit was due to cover a range of regional topics, the ongoing crisis in Yemen took the lead spot as the summit opened with speeches from Arab leaders.

A Saudi-led military offensive is underway against targets held by Houthi rebels in the turmoil-hit country, with the backing of a number of Arab states.

In his opening speech, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that military action was  “inevitable” to restore legitimate rule in Yemen.

El-Sisi also said that Egypt has accepted a proposal by a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to form a joint Arab military force to counter the “unprecedented threats” facing the region’s stability.

Arab foreign ministers agreed on a draft resolution to form a joint Arab military force to counter growing security threats in the region. The proposal requires the endorsement of the Arab leaders during the two-day summit this weekend.

Saudi’s King Salman vowed in his opening speech that the military intervention will not stop until Yemen is stable and safe. The monarch said that Saudi Arabia supports the Hadi government’s legitimacy in Yemen and wants stability for the Yemeni population.

He further stated that the situation in the region necessitates an Arab coalition to fight terrorism.

More details from CNN: Arab League to discuss military operation in Yemen.


The Wall Street Journal on the incredibly selfish, suicidal co-pilot of that crashed Germanwings jet: Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Concealed Depression From Airline.

BERLIN—Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed an airliner into a French mountainside, was being treated for depression, a fact he concealed from his employer, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Mr. Lubitz had been excused from work by his neuropsychologist for a period that included the day of the crash, this person told The Wall Street Journal, but he decided to ignore the advice and reported to work.

The Germanwings tragedy highlights a broader industry dilemma: reliance on pilots themselves to disclose serious physical or psychological ailments to their employer—and what can happen when secrecy urges or privacy considerations trump full disclosure, safety and medial experts say.

Despite mandatory, regular medical exams—supplemented by company-specific safeguards intended to periodically check on aviators’ skills and psychological state—airlines ultimately depend on employees to honestly assess and report when they shouldn’t be flying.

In return, Germanwings, a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and many other airlines around the globe promise to avoid punishing pilots who comply with that guiding principle.

Read more at the WSJ. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, this guy could have just shot himself or jumped out of a high window, but instead he decided to take 149 other people–including babies and high school kids–with him when he committed suicide.

Life after Snowpocalypse

A few stories on the terrible explosion in NYC’s East Village:

Newsweek: A Slice of New York City History Goes Up In Smoke.

An explosion in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday injured an estimated 25 people and destroyed a row of landmarked buildings that have held meaning for generations of New Yorkers. At one time the mayor’s residence was there, and another building housed an iconic vintage-clothing store made popular in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan.

“It’s a real tragedy. It was scary,” says Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s shocking when this happens in an area that’s so close-knit. People really live on the streets here, in a good way. There’s a real community.”

City officials say the March 26 explosion happened at 121 Second Avenue and also damaged the neighboring buildings at 119, 123 and 125. The buildings all were awarded landmark status in October 2012 as part of a designation of an East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. The buildings in that district date mostly to the mid- to late 1800s, a time when wealthier New Yorkers started moving uptown and selling off their properties, which were often turned into tenement housing.

European immigrants began moving into the area in large numbers in the second half of the 19th century. An early influx consisted mostly of Germans, and the area became known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe moved there too and established a vibrant theater district.

“The East Village and the Lower East Side are remarkable in that they’ve seen successive waves of immigrants and new populations coming in and really shaping and affecting the physical environment, bringing with them their social clubs, their gathering places,” Bankoff says.

By the middle of the 20th century, the Village became an epicenter for artists and bohemians.

The historic district, one of 114 in the city, runs north-south from around East 7th Street to East Second Street and east-west from First and Second avenues to the Bowery.


Click on the above link to continue reading. More details on the fire at ABC News: NYC Building Fire: Restaurant Owner Smelled Gas Before Massive Explosion, Officials Say.

From The New Yorker, a thoughtful and interesting essay on living in the East Village by Sarah Larson: The East Village Fire: Love Saves the Day.

Finally, one of the passengers in the GOP Clown Car, faux libertarian Rand Paul, opens his big mouth and spews nonsense and hate.

From Charles Pierce’s “Stupid for Lunch” cafe: Rand Paul’s Take On Defense Spending. In which the cafe staff starts the five minute clock for Senator Rand Paul.

The staff at the Cafe has a small clock in one particular booth. The booth is reserved for Senator Rand Paul, whenever he stops by for a quick lunch, for which he invariably undertips, when he doesn’t try to beat itout the back door.

Time was when Senator Aqua Buddha entertained us all — five minutes at a time — about how the country was wasting its money on a whole mess of sophisticated boom-boom. The staff knows when to begin the countdown and they begin invariably to whisper again…

Continue reading at the link.

Atheist Ayn Rand must be spinning in her grave over this from TPM.

Rand: ‘Moral Crisis’ Led To Gay Marriage, US Needs Religious Revival.

“Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything,” Paul said during a private prayer breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club.

“In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage.”


Raw Story: Rand Paul calls for ‘tent revivals’ to resolve the ‘moral crisis’ of gay marriage.

“The moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some other sort of marriage, ” he explained. “I think the exhortation to try and change people’s thoughts has to come from the countryside.”

The libertarian lawmaker then took a slightly religious turn, saying “You know, I’ve said this before, we need a revival in the country.”

“We need another great awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, you know,’reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform’.”

In a recent interview with Brett Baier of Fox News, Paul admitted that the use of the term ‘marriage’ for same sex couples offends him.

Watch the video at Raw Story. Honestly, I think that cartoon JJ post last night is beginning to make sense. Someone must have put LSD in Rand’s grits when he was a kid. Why would anyone vote for this wacko?

I’d write about the latest “revelations” about Hillary’s emails, but I don’t want to completely depress myself. I have to believe this will all die down before the 2016 primaries.

What have you been hearing and reading? Let us know in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of March. April is coming soon!


Wednesday Reads: World News….and US Shootings

146085581633138974_dHd13hgw_cGood Morning

This post will focus on world news reads, and updates on two US shootings making headlines. The latest news out of Texas:

4 Hospitalized in Shooting at Lone Star College

A dispute between two men at a community college in the wooded northern outskirts of Houston led to a shooting on Tuesday that left four people hospitalized and touched off fears that the campus was the site of another mass shooting.

Instead, the authorities said, the shooting, at Lone Star College’s North Harris campus, centered on an argument between two men, at least one of whom may have been a student or former student. Three people appeared to have been wounded by gunfire, including a maintenance worker who was shot in the leg. A fourth person, who was not shot, was taken to a hospital with medical problems.

Looks like one man was mad at another and he decided to let his gun do the talking.

This was not the only shooting in the news however, remember the young teen in New Mexico? Turns out he was home-schooled and according to some news reports loved to play video games.

Homeschooled Teen Who Killed Family With AR-15 Also Plotted Walmart Mass Shooting

New Mexico authorities announced on Tuesday that a 15-year-old boy who killed his family with several weapons including an AR-15 military-style assault rifle enjoyed playing “violent” video games and had planned to go to a local Walmart to shoot random people.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston told reporters at a press conference that Nehemiah Griego eventually admitted to the murders of his mother, father and three siblings after initially saying that he had come home to find them dead, according to KRQE.

Houston said that Griego had waited for his mother to fall asleep before gaining access to her unlocked bedroom closet to obtain an AR-15, a .22 rifle and two 12-gauge shotguns. Some of the weapons had been purchased by the father through private sales, the investigation found.

“The teen told authorities after killing his family he reloaded his weapons so that he could ‘drive to populated area to murder more people,'” KRQE reported. “He expressed a desire to shoot people at random and eventually be killed while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement.”

But the teen instead decided to spend time with his 12-year-old girlfriend before driving to Calvary Church, where his father had once been a pastor. A church security guard eventually called police, who discovered the bodies at the home.

A couple more links below:

New Mexico teen charged in family killings planned more carnage: police | Reuters

The murders have convulsed the faith community of Albuquerque, where Greg Griego, the teen’s father and a former gang member, worked as a pastor and volunteered with inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

A Statement of Probable Cause described Griego’s changing stories to police as well as the gory details of the quintuple homicide that took place on Saturday inside the family’s Albuquerque home.

The teen told police he shot his mother, the first victim in his rampage, because he was “frustrated” with her, Houston said.

After shooting his brother and two sisters, Griego, who police said often played violent video games, then waited five hours for his father to return from work and ambushed him with an AR-15 assault rifle – the same type of weapon used in the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shootings.

“It’s the first time I’ve been to a crime scene with so much destruction in one home,” Houston said, describing the scene at the family home as “horrific.”

Police said that after the killings, Griego sent his 12-year-old girlfriend a picture of his mother’s body and the two then spent the day together, possibly planning to kill her parents.

The dead have been identified as 51-year-old Greg Griego, his 40-year-old wife Sarah Griego, and three of their children: a 9-year-old boy and two girls, ages five and two.

Griego showing no remorse |

Nehemiah Griego has been unemotional and stern throughout questioning, Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said Tuesday, adding he also has not shown any signs of remorse after allegedly committing the most heinous crimes against his family.

“This is beyond any human reasoning or understanding,” Houston said.

The only motive, Griego told investigators, was that he was mad at his mother.

Just a few days after this shooting in New Mexico, and we know more than we do about Adam Lanza. It is frustrating…

Anyway, in world news….Over in Israel, Netanyahu has won re-election.

Netanyahu turns to Iran after narrow election win

Hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in Israel’s parliamentary election, shrugging off surprise losses to centre-left challengers and vowing on Wednesday to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

However, Tuesday’s vote, which also disappointed religiously inspired hardliners, may deflect the premier’s focus on confronting Tehran and resisting Palestinian demands as Israel’s secular, middle-class demanded new attention to domestic issues.

That, in turn, might draw Netanyahu toward a less fractious relationship with his key ally, U.S. President Barack Obama, who himself embarked on a new term this week with great ambitions.

North Korea is in the news too: After UN Acts, NKorea Vows ‘Nuclear Deterrence’

North Korea swiftly lashed out against the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of its December launch of a long-range rocket, saying Wednesday that it will strengthen its military defenses — including its nuclear weaponry — in response.

The defiant statement from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry was issued hours after the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of a ban against nuclear and missile activity. The resolution, which required approval from Pyongyang’s ally China, also added to sanctions against the North.

The Foreign Ministry called the launch a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space rather than a test of long-range missile technology. It said North Korea “should counter the U.S. hostile policy with strength, not with words.”

Words? Strength? Well, as I was looking for world news links for this post, I found this quite interesting:  Evacuation of Russians from Syria reflects Moscow’s doubts about Assad’s grip on power

The Kremlin’s evacuation of Russians from Syria on Tuesday marks a turning point in its view of the civil war, representing increasing doubts about Bashar Assad’s hold on power and a sober understanding that it has to start rescue efforts before it becomes too late.

The operation has been relatively small-scale, involving under 100 people, mostly women and children — but it marks the beginning of what could soon turn into a risky and challenging operation. Analysts warn that rescuing tens of thousands of Russians from the war-stricken country could quickly become daunting as the opposition makes new advances in the battle against the Syrian president.

“It’s a sign of distrust in Assad, who seems unlikely to hold on to power,” said Alexei Malashenko, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow office.

That is one take on the story, here is another: Russia says it is not planning full Syria evacuation

Russia said on Tuesday it had started evacuating scores of citizens who wanted to leave Syria but denied the move was the start of a mass exodus.

Two senior diplomats played down the significance of decision, announced on Monday, to send aircraft to bring Russians home almost two years after the start of the revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

“We are not talking about a full evacuation … It is not planned that everyone will leave,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said, according to state-run news agency Itar-Tass.

“We are helping those who want to leave,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on the sidelines of a meeting in Moscow between Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.

Another powerful man, tyrant if you will, has been missing lately. I am talking about Hugo Chavez of course, this op/ed from the New York Times:  Chávez, the Missing President

ON Jan. 10, while Hugo Chávez lay in a hospital bed in Havana, he was symbolically sworn in as Venezuela’s new president in a ceremony here. The crowd that attended his virtual inauguration was moved to tears by a recording of Mr. Chávez’s singing the national anthem. The country is experiencing the very odd circumstance of being both with and without its leader; he is not here, but his voice endures.

From the intensive care unit, the president “continues to perform his duties”; he gives orders and sends kisses to children. This is what his vice president says. According to the Supreme Court, the Congress cannot consider him absent, for no matter how ill he is, only Mr. Chávez himself has the authority to declare himself absent. The opposition is demanding a “fe de vida” — proof that he is still alive, as if he were a kidnapping victim. Day after day, on the street, on Twitter, our president dies and comes back to life. But this is not a magical realist novel.

Read the rest at the link.
I will finish this post with a couple of stories about France.  Mali conflict shakes country’s faith in its leaders
French and Malian soldiers
A French soldier, second from left, speaks with Malian soldiers near Diabaly. The French military drove militants out of that key central town, as well as Douentza, on Monday. (Arnaud Roine, French Army Communications Audiovisual / January 23, 2013)
Malians say the military’s inability to halt an Islamist advance toward the capital without the aid of France has them wondering what happens when the French leave.
This next story made me laugh, just the thought of some stinky cloud from France crossing the Channel… Rotten egg stench wafts over UK after French gas leak
A cloud of harmless gas smelling of sweat and rotten eggs leaked from a chemicals factory in northwest France and drifted across the English Channel as far as London on Tuesday.The leak occurred on Monday morning at a Lubrizol France plant near Rouen, 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Paris, and winds blew the invisible gas cloud south over northern France on Monday night and then up into England on Tuesday.The fire brigade in the county of Kent, southeast of London, warned residents to keep their doors and windows closed due to the gas, which may make some people feel nauseous, and police said they had reports of an acrid smell in the capital.

Lubrizol France, which makes additives for industrial lubricants and paint, said the gas was mercaptan, also known as methanethiol, a colourless additive used in natural gas because its sulphurous smell enables gas leaks to be detected.

Harmless? I don’t know, but it looks as if France farted in England’s general direction. Check out this lovely description from the New York Times: Smell of Gas Causes Alarm in Northern France

It wafted over northern France late in the night and reached southern England by morning on Tuesday, a noisome cloud that roused inhabitants from their sleep with its nauseating stench. There were thousands of frantic calls to emergency services, from Normandy to Paris, with residents describing the smell of household gas or rotten eggs, but the authorities moved quickly to calm fears.

The cloud, officials said, was one of a group of substances called mercaptans, foul-smelling but largelyharmless chemicals — at low doses, at any rate. It had escaped from a chemical plant near the northern city of Rouen.

“Given the absence of danger,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, “the inhabitants of the affected regions are invited to not call emergency services.” In a separate joint statement, the ministers of the interior and ecology noted that the chemical is dangerous only at concentrations 20,000 times that at which the nose detects it.

Often described as smelling of rotten cabbage, mercaptans are used as a marker for household gas, which is odorless, so that leaks do not go undetected. They are present in feces and some cheeses, and can cause headaches and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those symptoms were described by a number of people in France on Tuesday.

Rotten eggs, rotten cabbage, feces and cheese…hmmmm, reminds me of this scene from Goldmember:

Fat Bastard: I’ve been tryin’ to go legit.
Austin Powers: Of course…
Fat Bastard: But when you’re an overweight child, in a society that demands perfection, your sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair will always be tragically skewed…
Austin Powers: Did you just soil yourself?
Fat Bastard: Maybe.
Fat Bastard: It did sound a little wet, there didn’t it? Right at the end! Oooh! Heh heh heh. Let’s have a smell, all right? Oh, everyone likes their own brand, don’t they? Oh, this is magic! Hmmm, wafting, wafting. Ok, analysis. Ooh, smells like carrots in throw-up! Oh that could gag a maggot! It smells like hot sick ass in a dead carcass! Even stink would say that stinks! You know when you go into an apartment building and you smell the other people’s cooking on each floor and you go “What are they cookin’?” That, plus crap!

That, plus crap sounds about right!

What are you reading this morning?