Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Breaking News

morningcoffee

Good Morning!!

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

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

All hail the drama queen!

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

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

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

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

mirren drums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WPTV-limo-fire-1_20130505073118_320_240

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Micaria sociabilis

Micaria sociabilis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

 

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

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

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


Tuesday Reads: Hitchcock, Hearing Aids, and Republican Delusions

Good Morning!!

I’m really looking forward to seeing Hitchcock, the new movie about the making of Psycho. Unfortunately, the film may not come to Muncie, IN, so I might have to just hope it will still be playing in Boston when I get back home sometime in December. If you have a chance to see it where you are, let me know how you like it.

Last night the Wall Street Journal posted an interview with Helen Mirren, who plays the great director’s wife Alma Reville Hitchcock in the new film. Mirren is one of my favorite actresses!

Alfred Hitchcock once said that there were four people who helped make him who he was—one was a film director, one a script writer, one a cook and one the mother of his daughter. “Their names are Alma Reville,” he said of his wife of 44 years, who performed all four roles. In the new biopic “Hitchcock,” Helen Mirren rolls Reville’s many facets into a singular performance.

The movie, which opened in the city over the weekend, traces Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) effort to make his 1960 classic, “Psycho,” from his struggle with Hollywood studios to finance the picture to Reville’s pivotal role in the movie’s—and her husband’s—success. “I was surprised to find out about the importance of Alma,” Ms. Mirren said recently.

Read what Mirren had to say at the link.

And here’s an interview with Anthony Hopkins, who plays Alfred Hitchcock at “Vulture.”

Do you remember the first time you saw Psycho?

When it first came out in Manchester on a wet September evening and I was knocked out by it. That was the most terrifying film I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it: Where’s Janet Leigh? She’s got to come back. She’s the star of the movie! I thought she perhaps escaped from the trunk of the car. So I’ve been watching these films over the years, long before I knew I was going to play him.

Did you talk to anyone who worked with Hitchcock? What insights did they share?

I met Janet Leigh in New York, and then later in Hollywood at a function. She said, “Mr. Hitchcock was one of the funniest men I’ve ever worked with. My ex-husband Tony [Curtis] and I used to go to his house in Bel-Air, and we’d laugh ourselves sick, because he was so funny, so wicked, a great practical joker.” She said he wasn’t an easy man to get to know, but she got on with him.

Read lots more at the link.

Psycho came out in 1960, when I was only 12 years old. My parents wouldn’t let me see horror movies, which is probably why I love them so much now. I don’t remember when I first saw Psycho–it must have been on TV, probably in the late 60s or 70s. By then the shock value wasn’t as huge as when the movie first came out.

Entertainment Weekly has a “look back at the mystique of ‘Psycho’” by Owen Glieberman

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released in the summer of 1960, and in the half a century since, it has become the rare movie in which every image and detail and motif is now, more or less, iconic. Every moment in the movie is a piece of mythological Americana.

In a way that I couldn’t quite say about any other film, I feel as if I’ve spent most of my movie life thinking — and writing — about Psycho. Part of the film’s mystique is that no matter how many times you’ve seen it (and it may be the ultimate movie that you can watch over and over again), it keeps coming back to provoke and tantalize and haunt you. Its power of revelation never wears thin or gets old. It’s one of the only films in Hollywood history — the others, I would say, are The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Star Wars — that is so alive, its experience so vivid and immediate and larger-than-life, that it effectively transcends time….

In the infamous shower scene, when that big, fat kitchen knife, wielded by a mysterious Victorian shrew named Mrs. Bates, came slashing down, over and over again, into the body of Marion Crane, it was also slicing through years — decades, centuries — of popular expectation that the hero or heroine of a fictional work would be shielded and protected, or would at least die (usually at the end) in a way that made some sort of moral-dramatic sense. In Psycho, murder made no sense at all; the suddenness — and viciousness — of it tore at the fabric of our certainty. What it suggested is that none of us, in the end, are ever truly protected. Hitchcock seemed to be pulling the rug, the floor, and the earth right out from under the audience. He opened an abyss, exposing moviegoers to a dark side that few, at the time, could ever have dared to imagine.

Eeeeeeeeek!

In other news, I had a big day yesterday. I’ve had moderate hearing loss since I was pretty young–at least since my early 30s. When I first found out I had nerve damage, I was told there was nothing that could be done. My problem was that I had trouble making out words, and hearing aids would only make the garbled words louder.

Technology has advanced over the past 30 years, and yesterday I got some hearing aids, thanks to the generosity of my mother. Suddenly I can hear things that I never heard before. I can hear the words people are saying even if I’m not looking at them and watching their lips. I can hear people when they whisper–previously I couldn’t make out whispering even if the person’s mouth was right next to my ear. It’s just amazing. I hope you don’t mind me sharing that.

Now some national news. Republicans are still trying to figure out why they lost the presidential election and, as Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out last night, they still don’t want to give President Obama any credit for beating them. No, it’s all about demographics, fooling Latinos and women into thinking Republicans actually care about their issues. But what about Asian-Americans, another group that voted for Obama by a lopsided percentage?

Right wing racist Charles Murray argues that the problem (with both Latinos and Asians) is that the Republican Party has tied itself to socially conservative issues (no kidding!)

My thesis is that the GOP is in trouble across the electoral board because it has become identified in the public mind with social conservatism. Large numbers of Independents and Democrats who are naturally attracted to arguments of fiscal discipline, less government interference in daily life, greater personal responsibility, and free enterprise refuse to vote for Republicans because they are so put off by the positions and rhetoric of social conservatives, whom they take to represent the spirit of the “real” GOP….

Asians are only half as likely to identify themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative” as whites, and less than half as likely to identify themselves as Republicans. Asians are not only a lot more liberal than whites; a higher percentage of Asians identify themselves as “liberal” or “extremely liberal” (22%) than do blacks (19%) or Latinos (17%). And depending on which poll you believe, somewhere in the vicinity of 70% of Asians voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election.

Something’s wrong with this picture. It’s not just that the income, occupations, and marital status of Asians should push them toward the right. Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define “natural.”

And so on… bla bla bla…

At the American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie explains to Murray How Not to Appeal to Asian Americans. Hint: cut out the racism.

As with Latinos, Asian American movement to the Democratic Party has a lot to do with with the explicitly anti-immigrant stance of the GOP, as well as the overwhelming sense that the GOP is a party for hidebound whites, and actively hostile toward nonwhites of all stripes.

There’s a policy component in this as well; the Asian American community is highly diverse (ethnically, economically, and otherwise), and there many who would benefit from the core Obama agenda of health care reform, stronger social services, and investments in education and other programs. Still, even with that in mind, it’s fair to say that Asian American support for Obama is as much about inclusion as it is about policy.

Which is why this piece, from conservative scholar Charles Murray, rankles. Rather than consider Asian American political preferences on their own terms—or even acknowledge the range of experience among different Asian American groups—Murray lumps them all into a single, undistinguished mass of model minorities, and then wonders why they don’t vote for Republican candidates.

But Murray’s argument is based on a false premise:

It’s worth noting the implicit contrast here. Entrepreneurism, industriousness, family-orientation, self-reliance—these are things that Murray sees as unique to Republican constituencies. Which must also mean that these are thing that go unvalued by Democratic constituencies, namely, African Americans, Latinos, young people, and single women.

Furthermore, as Bouie notes today’s Republicans actually are a bunch of fundamentalists who are anti-gay and anti-woman. That’s not just a perception, it’s the reality that Charles Murray doesn’t want to accept. It’s not that Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are deluded about the nature of the Republican Party. But what else would you expect from the author of the racist screed The Bell Curve?

Today Susan Rice will begin facing down her Republican critics on Capital Hill.

With congressional opposition softening, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice could find her name in contention as early as this week to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. It’s a step that may signal greater U.S. willingness to intervene in world crises during President Barack Obama’s second term.

As Obama nears a decision on who should be the country’s next top diplomat, Rice has emerged as the clear front-runner on a short list of candidates that many believe has been narrowed to just her and Sen. John Kerry, despite lingering questions over her comments about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya.

According to congressional aides and administration officials, Rice will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week for closed door meetings with key lawmakers whose support she will need to be confirmed. Those appearances follow her first in-depth explanation of her Benghazi remarks that Republicans seized on as evidence of the administration’s mishandling of the attack that took the lives of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

Acting CIA Director Michael Morell will join Rice in her meetings with lawmakers.

Today Rice will meet with Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte. When asked about the meeting, McCain was his usual testy self:

McCain said he would ask Rice “the same questions I’ve been talking about on every talk show in America.” Asked whether he thinks she’s still unfit for secretary of state and what he was hoping for, McCain interrupted and said, “I’m not hoping for anything. She asked to see me and I agreed to see her.”

What a jerk. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

I’ll end with this amazing artistic depiction of Republican delusion, Grover Norquist as the Wizard of Oz (via Buzzfeed).

Artist Michael D’Antuono has painted anti-taxi activist Grover Norquist as a Wizard of Oz-like disembodied head with Republican politicians bowing before him as an elephant burns, to symbolize Norquist’s powerful position in the Republican party.


Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?