Well, after having a good evening, watching a couple of Italian films last night, Life is Beautiful and Miracle on Madonna Street, I have a few links for you this morning.
The New York Post has an article about the battles being fought in Africa: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars to Iran
The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection.
Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150.
For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation.
When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran.
Read the rest at the link, it is a long article.
In other news, this time out of Brazil: Fast New Test Could Find Leprosy Before Damage Is Lasting
A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore.
American researchers developed the test, and Brazil’s drug-regulatory agency registered it last month. A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less.
“This will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages,” said Dr. William Levis, who has treated leprosy patients at a Bellevue Hospital outpatient clinic for 30 years.
Even more important, he said, it is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear. And the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, related to the one that causes tuberculosis, but reproducing so slowly that symptoms often take seven years to appear.
This new test requires just a drop of blood and the results are given after only ten minutes.
The disease has historically been hard to diagnose, despite the popular, but inaccurate, image of fingers and toes dropping off victims. As the bacteria kill nerves, muscles atrophy and those digits curl into claws. After disuse and repeated injuries, the body reacts protectively by absorbing the bone calcium in the bones, shrinking the digits.
For centuries, some observant doctors have noticed early signs: the numb skin patches, missing eyebrows, drooping earlobes, bulging neck nerves, the flat “lion face” caused by nasal cartilage dissolving.
Since nothing could be done for them before the age of antibiotics, victims lost the use of their hands and had to beg. Some also went blind as the blinking muscles degenerated and their eyes dried out. In the Middle Ages, some towns banned lepers, while others required them to ring bells to warn of their approach. Religious charities created “leper colonies.”
And they still exist, even in the United States. A few elderly residents have chosen to stay on in Carville, La., and Kalaupapa, Hawaii, despite having been cured. Several thousand live at one in northeast Brazil, said John S. Spencer, a leprosy researcher at Colorado State University who has worked there. “People say things like ‘People outside won’t understand what’s wrong with my face,’ ” he said.
Nowadays, he said, most patients are cured before their faces are severely disfigured. Still, he said, he had read a survey in which health experts asked Brazilians whether they would rather have the human immunodeficiency virus or leprosy. Most chose H.I.V. — even though leprosy does not kill, can be cured, and does not make a victim risky to have sex with. “The stigma is that strong,” he said.
Wow. Dr Lewis says he hopes the Brazilian test becomes available in the US so he can test the families of his patients. It takes many antibiotics given over 6 months to a year to cure the disease…these new test provide doctors with more time to could help diagnosis leprosy before permanent nerve damage is done.
I guess my PAD is getting the best of me, I just don’t have the energy to give you more than these…and instead of posting links to more of the same news, give a look at some of the artsy reads below.
With the Academy Awards later tonight, I have two links about film and films.
Hollywood is getting ready to hand out the industry’s most prestigious film awards: the Oscars.
Among the contenders for best documentary is a film directed by an Israeli, and another by a Palestinian.
Both the Israeli The Gatekeepers and Palestinian 5 Broken Cameras tell the same story, but from two quite different perspectives.
Video at the link, and…
Digital is taking over Hollywood, but celluloid’s fans intend to fight on
They are some of the most powerful people in one of the most powerful entertainment industries in the world. And when Hollywood’s grandest gather at tonight’s Oscars there will be no end of smiles and handshakes. But they are also fans, and like all fans, they are given to apparently arcane squabbles. The latest is whether films should be shot on, well, film.
Some of the most successful directors, such as James Cameron and George Lucas, are so obsessed with having the best special effects that they have spent millions embracing computer-generated imagery and abandoned 35mm film. Others, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are wedded to traditional celluloid, which is becoming the film equivalent of the vinyl record.
Epics such as Les Misérables and Lincoln – both shot on 35mm – and digital creations such as Life of Pi have all made millions at the box office. While film buffs may talk about the “feel” of film, with all its subtleties, the reality is that pixilated perfection is winning – the whirring of 35mm film projectors silenced by the hum of digital machines.
Just take a look at the films nominated for best picture:
Although many love a sharp, digital picture with high definition, others prefer something a bit less “real”. The split among directors is highlighted in the nominations for Best Picture. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were shot on film. While Argo, Amour, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty were shot on digital. As was The Hobbit nominated in three technical Oscar categories.
David O Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, said: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m superstitious, maybe I’m romantic – I love film and it has a magic quality, it has a warmth. I may use digital cameras in a pinch because they are small and fast but I like film for its humaneness.” He is one of a number of directors determined to continue shooting on 35mm. Another is Nolan, who made the Dark Knight trilogy: “I am now constantly asked to justify why I want to shoot a film on film,” he said. Nolan likens digital to an “amazing” cookie until you realise “this is some horrible chemical crap that’s giving you this bad illusion that fools you at first.”
You can read more about what actors, cinematographers and directors think about digital vs film at the link up top. I tend to agree with the folks who love film…and think that digital sucks.
Another archaic form of technology that gets lost in this day in age is the typewriter. Take this woman’s use of the typewriter:
As romantic as the idea of working on a typewriter now seems, in reality they’re rather clunky and temperamental things. Writing with one would probably take us an age – and if we made a mistake? Well, forget it.
So imagine trying to draw with one.
London based artist Keira Rathbone, originally from Dorset, does exactly that; clustering together marks made by letters, numbers and symbols, to make brilliant, one-off images.
The English artist clusters letters, numbers and symbols from a typewriter keyboard to composite images; from portraits of friends and celebrities to landscapes and still life. A closer look at what looks like a sketch of Wimborne Minster, a church in East Dorset, England, reveals swirls of ampersands and the ticks of quotations marks.
Watch the video below to see the artist at work, and click through the slideshow to see examples of her typewriter art. Visit keirarathbone.com for more examples of her work.
Be sure to take a look at the pictures, Rathone’s art is impressive…
Another obsolete form of technology is shown below…Keypunch Orchestra: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive
June 1937. “Baltimore, Maryland. For every Social Security account number issued an ‘employee master card’ is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank form SS-5, is transferred to this master card in the form of upended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows records office workers punching master cards on key punch machines.” Whew. Longest caption ever? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
That is all I have for you this morning. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, see ya later on tonight…should be quite a show.
So what are you all reading and blogging about today?
It is a big weekend for Hollywood, the Academy Awards are Sunday night, so we will start tonight’s cartoons with a few funnies about that golden bald man.
Nate Silver has some predictions up at his blog, Oscar Predictions, Election-Style .He is putting his statistics and calculations to work using:
the other awards that were given out in the run-up to the Oscars: the closest equivalent to pre-election polls. These have always been the best predictors of Oscar success. In fact, I have grown wary that methods that seek to account for a more complex array of factors are picking up on a lot of spurious correlations and identifying more noise than signal. If a film is the cinematic equivalent of Tim Pawlenty — something that looks like a contender in the abstract, but which isn’t picking up much support from actual voters — we should be skeptical that it would suddenly turn things around.
Just as our election forecasts assign more weight to certain polls, we do not treat all awards equally. Instead, some awards have a strong track record of picking the Oscar winners in their categories, whereas others almost never get the answer right (here’s looking at you, Los Angeles Film Critics Association).
These patterns aren’t random: instead, the main reason that some awards perform better is because some of them are voted on by people who will also vote for the Oscars. For instance, many members of the Screen Actors Guild will vote both for the SAG Awards and for the Oscars. In contrast to these “insider” awards are those like the Golden Globes, which are voted upon by “outsiders” like journalists or critics; these tend to be less reliable.
Go check out his predictions, and I will make sure to update you all on Nate’s results.
Now for the cartoons.
This is a good segue to cartoons about Sequester…
Now, this next cartoon is very clever…even if we may disagree with it: Cagle Post » Obama’s monster
I can’t help it, I am a sucker for Frankenstein.
Personally, I think they all are to blame! One more for you on the Sequester.
Okay, have you heard about the Olympics cutting wrestling from the games…
Now for the gun issue:
This one above is thought provoking…
Let’s end this with a few odds and ends:
This is an open thread…
Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News Sunday today and put on one of his patented disagreeable and self-righteous displays, apparently in aid of making himself look like a tough guy to the right wing nuts back home in South Carolina.
Graham has been living in fear for quite some time now–terrified that some tea party bot will challenge his seat in the Senate and bring him down like Mike Lee did to Bob Bennett in Utah and Richard Mourdock did to Richard Lugar in Indiana.
Over the past few months, Graham has appeared more and more desperate–joining John McCain in a manic freakout over the Benghazi attacks and ginning up bizarre attacks President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. He even went so far as to claim that Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” in the Beghazi affair. Dana Millbank recently called Graham “the mad dog of Capital Hill.”
Graham’s nasty-guy act seems to be working, according to Politico. So far no one has come forward to primary him, although SC state senator Lee Bright is still thinking about it.
Graham’s recent run is hard to miss: He helped sink U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s chance of becoming secretary of state. He said on Fox that Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. In just the past couple of weeks, he’s used his positions on the Armed Services and Judiciary committees to rip into defense secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and witnesses who favor new gun-control measures.
On Tuesday, Graham pounced to discredit Timothy Heaphy, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Virginia, during a hearing on gun violence.
His first question: “Do you own a gun?”
Heaphy acknowledged that he didn’t.
“Do any of your close friends own a gun?” Graham pressed….
Never mind that most federal prosecutors have some expertise with gun violence or that U.S. attorneys need special permission from the Justice Department to carry firearms at work. Graham had scored the political point.
I didn’t get the point, but I’m guessing it’s related to Graham’s recent bragging about owning an AK-47. And look out bad guys–Graham also likes Quentin Tarrantino!
“Being from South Carolina, I’ve owned guns all of my life,” Graham said at a press conference. “I own an AR-15. I saw the movie ‘Django [Unchained].’ I like Quentin Tarantino.”
“That may say a lot about my movie taste, but there are many moving parts to this,” he added.
It’s not the first time Graham has invoked his AR-15 while arguing against new gun laws — the senator recently mentioned his semi-automatic rifle while making the case that high-capacity magazines are needed to protect families.
It was, however, the first time Graham has weighed in on Tarantino’s much-debated slavery revenge flick. He appeared to be arguing that violence in the media and video games ought to be discussed, while simultaneously making the case that individuals such as himself could act as both responsible gun owners and consumers of violent cinema.
Today in his Fox News Sunday appearance, Graham really went all out–arguing that preventing cuts to the military is more important than providing health care for Americans. It’s looking more and more as if Republicans will allow the sequester cuts to happen at the end of the month, and Graham claims the defense cuts will “destroy the military.” From Think Progress:
Graham suggested that the sequester’s across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including about a roughly 7.5 percent reduction in military spending, would be “destroying the military.” But rather than agree to President Obama’s proposed alternatives to the sequester, the South Carolina Republican said we should save money by eliminating health care for the 30 million people covered by the Affordable Care Act:
CHRIS WALLACE: Let me just ask you one more question about the sequestration before we let you go, Senator. You know if we go into the sequester, the president is going to hammer Republicans, the White House already put out a list of all the things, terrible things that will happen if a sequester kicks in, 70,000 children losing Head Start. 2100 fewer food inspectors and small business will lose $900 million in loan guarantees and you know, Senator, the president will say your party is forcing this to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.
GRAHAM: Well, all i can say is the commander-in-chief thought — came up with the idea of sequestration, destroying the military and putting a lot of good programs at risk. It is my belief — take Obamacare and put it on the table. You can make $86,000 a year in income and still get a government subsidy under Obamacare. Obamacare is destroying health care in this country and people are leaving the private sector, because their companies cannot afford to offer Obamacare and if you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, look at Obamacare, don’t destroy the military and cut blindly across the board. There are many ways to do it but the president is the commander-in-chief and on his watch we’ll begin to unravel the finest military in the history of the world, at a time when we need it most. The Iranians are watching us, we are allowing people to be destroyed in Syria, and i’m disappointed in our commander-in-chief.
I’m no expert on the “Sequester”–I’ll leave that to Dakinikat–but frankly, I believe the military could be cut plenty and not be “destroyed.” Here’s an analysis by Laura Matthews of the International Business Times from Feb. 8:
Looking at the possible cuts closely, some experts say that these politicians are overreacting, and that, in reality, they are defending the Pentagon’s bureaucratic turf — its value as measured by its annual funding — not the country in opposing the budget cuts.
“The Defense Department will have enough latitude to protect what’s crucial and I don’t think we will be less safe in 2013 or thereafter,” said Mattea Kramer, the research director at the National Priorities Project in Northampton, Mass.
For one thing, the 2011 U.S. defense budget, about $700 billion, dwarfed those of all other nations by a large amount. China, the second-biggest spender, had a defense budget of $143 billion that year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. No other country even breaks into the triple digits of billions of dollars.
For another, because the spending cuts will roll in over a decade, the average yearly cut would be about $45 billion, little more than 5 percent of America’s annual defense spending. And, according to Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington and an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, “even if the defense budget were reduced by the entire $1 trillion, or about $100 billion a year over the next decade, it would amount to a reduction of [the defense budget] of about 15 percent.” Which means that annual defense spending would be about equal to what it was in 2007 — when the U.S. was involved in two active wars.
Matthews writes that the “Sequester” provides an “opportunity” to
revisit the nature of global threats and its response to them, a growing of experts believe. National-security needs have shifted dramatically since the Cold War, from containing a lone rival superpower to combating terrorism, fighting smaller conflicts, and cyberwarfare. In that time, the U.S. has, in many ways, moved away from deterrence to prevention.
The key capability that the Defense Department should focus on in this environment is navigating a more varied, contested, and asynchronous battlefield, the experts say. Instead of ballistic missile defense programs, the Pentagon would be better served and its budget better used by spending more money to train and equip special-operations forces, the kind that killed Osama bin Laden, and to develop more innovative submarines, unmanned and manned stealthy long-range aircraft, and offensive and defensive cyberwarfare systems, said Todd Harrison, a defense and budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
In November 2012, Ezra Klein used the following graph to demonstrate that “the sequester’s defense cuts aren’t that scary.”
Th[e] graph comes from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and it shows real military spending since the Korean War (“real” in that the graph adjusts for inflation).
As you can see, the post-9/11 rise in military spending was larger than the rise during Vietnam and during the Cold War. And even if we implement every single cut in the sequester, the fall in spending would be less than the military experienced after Korea, Vietnam, or the Cold War.
Getting rid of Obamacare, on the other hand, would increase the federal deficit by 109 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
We’re seeing how much it’s worth to Lindsey Graham to save his seat in the Senate. If ever had a soul, he’s sold it now. If that has made him happy, it sure doesn’t show.
I think I was a natural born Buddhist because killing things for sport is something I have never understood and will never understand. I do understand the need to eat. I understand that if you chose to eat meat you’ve likely had a butcher do your killing and it’s likely done quickly and humanely and with a certain knowledge of exactly what you’re doing. I just find that different than when you go out and stalk a living creature and you kill it just because it’s standing there and you’re out there having fun.
Sarah Palin made sure her now-defunct “reality” show included the scene of her shooting a caribou, although hunting experts questioned some of the details and wondered why it took five shots to bring down the animal. Ms. Palin dismissed such criticisms, telling a Kansas City crowd, “I have caribou blood under my fingernails still.”
I can see Tina Fey doing that line on SNL, can’t you? That line is a little closer to psychopathy than I’m just putting dinner on the table. Still, we some how have gotten to a place where stalking and killing animals for fun is something politicians put out there for all to see. Why? Is it a way of saying “See, I’m a real man”? I also wonder how much the animal suffered given the five shots.
Once describing himself as a “lifelong hunter,” Mitt Romney had to backtrack, acknowledging that “lifelong hunter” meant shooting at “small varmints” now and then.
Rick Perry let it be known that he once went mano a mano with a coyote he said was threatening his dog, killing the beast with the handgun he carried while jogging. (Just where did he tuck that .380 Ruger on his morning run through the cactus and tumbleweeds, by the way?)
As a presidential candidate, John Kerry once borrowed a double-barreled shotgun and camo outfit to bag geese and an important photo op. (Wasn’t it enough that he’d pursued and killed an enemy soldier armed with a rocket-propelled grenade in Vietnam, where he’d been awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts?)
So, the President had to prove he has shot a gun and thankfully, for me, it was on clay pigeons instead of Bambi’s mother. I find it odd, however, that you can still sympathize with hunters given you choose not to actually kill something in the process. There seems to be still something primal and insecure in some men that they believe their right of passage is bringing home a kill. Republicans didn’t believe that a commie pinko, socialist muslim peacenik tree hugger could hold a gun so the White House released this photo.
The White House has released a photo of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David from August, 2012, attempting to quell a controversy that arose when Obama said that he sympathized with hunters because he frequently went shooting himself.
“Attn skeet birthers. Make our day – let the photoshop conspiracies begin!,” former White House advisor David Plouffe tweeted in a message containing a link to a photo of Obama brandishing a shot gun and wearing ear muffs and sun glasses.Conservative critics questioned the veracity of the Obama’s claims of skeet shooting because he had never been seen publicly shooting a gun.
“If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a television interview after Obama’s remarks were made public.
“Why have we not seen photos,” Blackburn continued. “Why has he not referenced it at any point in time as we have had this gun debate that is ongoing?”
Yup, If you’re an Amuriken politician, you gotta put those photos out there proving your man enough to kill–at least–a small “varmint”.
Although Palin, Blackburn, and other women in politics are joining men in touting their love of firearms (and women can now be considered for combat positions in the US military), it’s mainly men – just as it is with the question of military service, especially those who might have served in Vietnam but didn’t, including Cheney and Romney. (There no doubt are darkly psychological issues here too, but we won’t go there.)
Actually, I’d like some one to explore the “darkly psychological issues” that seem to imply our politicians have to know their way around guns, if not, explicitly enjoy killing animals. The discussion around the photo–taken back in August while he was celebrating his birthday at Camp David–is itself puzzling to me.
The notion of the president taking aim at targets flung into the air captivated some in the political and social media worlds at a time when he is pushing Congress to enact sweeping restrictions on high-capacity rifles and magazines.
Conservatives scoffed, comics mocked, a congresswoman challenged him to a skeet-shooting contest, a fake picture of an armed Mr. Obama circulated on the Internet, and the White House tried to make the whole matter go away.
“It was a surprise to a lot of people in the industry when we saw that and heard that,” said Michael Hampton Jr., the executive director of the National Skeet Shooting Association, whose 35,000 members do not include the president.
Mr. Obama is hardly the first politician to draw scorn for boasting of experience with guns. In 2007, during his first presidential campaign, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was ridiculed when he said, “I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter — small varmints, if you will.” In 2004, John Kerry, then a presidential candidate and now secretary of state, was lampooned for showing up in camouflage to go hunting less than two weeks before the election.
The latest commotion has its origins in the interview Mr. Obama gave to The New Republic, now owned by Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder and former Obama campaign aide. In the interview, Franklin Foer, the magazine’s editor, referred to the fight over gun control and asked the president if he had ever fired a gun.
“Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time,” Mr. Obama said.
“The whole family?” Mr. Foer asked.
“Not the girls,” he said, “but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake.”
Mr. Obama went on to say that the reality of guns in urban areas differs from that in rural areas. “So it’s trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months,” he said. “And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes.”
I grew up in the part of the country where hunting and shooting are considered a way of life. I live down here surrounded by folks that have to hunt and shoot things to put food on the table. I still can’t get used to it, which again, makes me thing I was a natural born Buddhist. However, putting food on your table out of necessity is a far cry from taking a huge gun–ala insane Ted Nugent–and then bragging about having caribou blood under your fingernails. Can some one explain this to me? Why do we want politicians with some degree of bloodlust?
My daughter has the flu, so I spent the day in the waiting room of the doctor…I don’t even know what happened today at the NRA press conference. From the headline of Boston Boomer’s post, Unhinged Wayne LaPierre Advocates Putting Guns in Schools as Gunman Kills 4, Wounds 3 in Altoona, PA , it looks like it was full of tragic irony.
This is an open thread.