Tuesday Reads: Autumnal Equinox Edition

autumnal equinox

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

 

Today is 2014’s autumnal equinox, when day and night are equal in length. From now on, the days will get shorter and the nights longer, as we approach winter. Actually, autumn officially began in the Northern Hemisphere last night at 10:29 Eastern time.

From Sky and Telescope:

Astronomically speaking…the fall season…comes to the Northern Hemisphere on Tuesday, September 23rd at 2:29 Universal Time (10:29 p.m. EDT on Monday, the 22nd). At that moment, the Sun shines directly on Earth’s equator, heading south as seen in the sky. For us northerners, this event is called the autumnal equinox….

The apparent position of the Sun in our sky is farther north or farther south depending on the time of year due to the globe’s axial tilt. Earth’s rotational axis does not point straight up and down, like the handle of a perfectly spinning top, but is slanted about 23½° with respect to our orbit around the Sun.

Another way to think of this is that the plane defined by Earth’s orbit around the Sun (called the ecliptic) is tilted with respect to the planet’s equator. From our perspective, the Sun follows the ecliptic in its path through the sky throughout the year. Each day the Sun’s daily arc moves northward or southward, depending on the time of the year. To observers at northern latitudes (in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, for example), the Sun appears to sneak higher in the sky from late December to late June, only to drop down again from late June through late December. The equinox occurs when the Sun is halfway through each journey.

This axial tilt also produces our seasons. When Earth is on one side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped toward the Sun and receives more direct solar rays (and more daylight hours) that produce the familiar climes of summer. Six months later, when Earth is on the opposite side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped away from the Sun. The slanting solar rays heat the ground less and daylight is shorter, producing the colder winter season.

What else happens at the equinox?

Day and night are nearly the same length; the word “equinox” comes from the Latin aequinoctium, meaning “equal night,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, a poke around your almanac will show that day and night are not precisely 12 hours each, for two reasons: first, sunrise and sunset are defined as when the Sun’s top edge — not its center— crosses the horizon. Second, Earth’s thick atmosphere refracts the Sun’s apparent position slightly when the solar disk sits very low on the horizon.

The Sun rises due east and sets due west, as seen from everywhere on Earth; the equinoxes are the only times of the year when this occurs.Should you be standing on the equator, the Sun would pass exactly overhead at midday.

Were you standing at the North Pole or South Pole, the Sun would skim completely around the horizon.

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

The autumnal equinox marks the pagan festival of Mabon, “when livestock is slaughtered and preserved to provide enough food for the winter.” From Huffington Post,

Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

“Mabon is a time to reflect on the previous year, when we can celebrate our successes (likened to bringing in the harvest) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition,” the Los Angeles-based pagan leader Laurie Lovekraft told HuffPost.

The pagan website The White Goddess explains:

This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future. In the rhythm of the year, Mabon is a time of rest and celebration, after the hard work of gathering the crops. Warm autumn days are followed by chill nights, as the Old Sun God returns to the embrace of the Goddess.

The holiday is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.

Some pagans mark the holiday by enjoying rich feasts with seasonal foods like apples, pomegranates and root vegetables. Many also observe rituals honoring the goddess’transition from mother to crone.

Endless War News

The US (and some Arab allies) have carried out airstrikes in Syria. From The Guardian, US confirms 14 air strikes against Isis in Syria.

The most intensive barrage of air strikes launched against Islamic State (Isis) since the US fight against the terror group began last month thundered into northern Syria until after dawn on Tuesday, heralding a new phase of a war that Sunni regional powers have vowed to help lead.

Large explosions were reported in the group’s stronghold of Raqqa, in eastern Syria, as well as in Idlib province. There were unconfirmed reports that attacks had also taken place near Deir Azzor and western Aleppo.

A Pentagon statement said the 14 strikes against Isis targets were carried out with Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Jordan confirmed it its airforce had “destroyed a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terror acts inside Jordan” without making explicit reference to Syria.

More details from The New York Times (I’m unable to quote from the article), and from The BBC, 

The Pentagon said warplanes, drones and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, which targeted several areas including IS stronghold Raqqa.

Syria’s foreign ministry said its UN envoy was informed about the strikes against IS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Activists say at least 70 IS militants were killed in the strikes….

It said a total of 14 strikes destroyed or damaged IS training compounds, command and control facilities, vehicles and storage sites.

The US military will continue to conduct air strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, it added.

US Gen Martin Dempsey, America’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer, said the strikes were conducted to show IS militants they had no safe haven. “We certainly achieved that,” he told reporters.

Separately, Centcom said US forces also attacked a network of al-Qaeda veterans named Khorasan who had established a safe haven west of Aleppo and were plotting imminent attacks against the West.

Experts say members of the secretive group are believed to co-operate with al-Nusra Front – Syria’s al-Qaeda-affiliate – using its training bases and resources.

President Obama plans to speak about the Syrian strikes this morning at 10AM.

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Economics News

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued a new tax rules designed to prevent companies from moving operations out of the U.S. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Lew Tries to Limit Tax-Cut Deals With Inversion Crackdown.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s crackdown on inversions will get an immediate test as eight U.S. companies with pending deals decide whether to proceed — and other companies contemplating a foreign address now have to think twice.

That’s exactly what Lew had in mind.

“This action will significantly diminish the ability of inverted companies to escape U.S. taxation,” Lew told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “For some companies considering deals, today’s action will mean that inversions no longer make economic sense.”

The Treasury announcement heightened the tension between the government and companies considering obtaining a foreign address to lower their tax bills. Lew and President Barack Obama made clear that they were prepared to use rule-making authority to try stop some deals, even at the risk of a backlash from the companies and from Republicans, who already complained that Lew’s moves went too far.

A wave of inversions caught lawmakers’ attention this year when large companies such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) andWalgreen Co. (WAG) explored transactions andMedtronic Inc. (MDT), AbbVie Inc. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) moved forward with deals.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

Treasury officials took action under five sections of the U.S. tax code to make inversions harder and less profitable, removing some of the appeal that has made the transactions more common in recent years, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

In an inversion, an American company reincorporates for tax purposes in a tax-friendlier country such as the U.K. or Ireland, typically while maintaining much of their operations in the U.S. Most recent inversions sprang from mergers of a U.S. firm with a smaller foreign firm after regulatory steps taken during President Barack Obama’s first term curbed other types of inversions.

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

And from the AP via Bloomberg, Ahead of the Bell: Inversion rules sting stocks.

Shares of several companies stumbled Tuesday before markets opened and a day after the Treasury Department announced new regulations that aim to make it tougher to pull off overseas mergers and acquisitions that trim U.S. corporate tax bills.

The new measures attempt to keep companies from finding ways to access earnings from a foreign subsidiary without paying U.S. taxes, including “hopscotch” loans, in which companies shift earnings by lending money to the new foreign parent company while skipping over the U.S.-based company. Another rule change would make it harder for merged or acquired companies to benefit from lower foreign taxes by tightening the application of a law that says the American company’s shareholders must own less than 80 percent of the new, combined company.

About 50 U.S. companies have carried out moves known as inversions in the past decade, and more are considering it, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

An inversion happens when a U.S. corporation and a foreign company combine, with the new parent company based in the foreign country. For tax purposes, the U.S. company becomes foreign-owned, even if all the executives and most of its operations remain in the U.S. Inversions can help companies generate significant tax savings over time in part because the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, at 35 percent.

Awwwwwwww . . . too bad corporate bigwigs. I so don’t feel sorry for you.

Offbeat News

I have a few offbeat stories for you. The first one is especially for JJ. ABC News reports, ‘Little People, Big World’ Star Jeremy Roloff Is Married.

“Little People, Big World” star Jeremy Roloff, 24, married Audrey Mirabella Botti Saturday afternoon in Oregon.

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Jeremy’s twin brother, Zach, was his best man, while the bride wore a gown designed by Lauren Graebner of Eva’s by Reclamation, People magazine reports.

The bridesmaids wore flower crowns and Botti, 23, wore a larger crown designed by Vanessa Schmidt. Roloff wore a suit from ProperSuit, which he shared on social media.

More details, photos, and tweets at the link.

From the Leicester Mercury (UK), Pictures released of two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands found in Leicestershire.

Pictures were released today by the University of Leicester, showing two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands, which have been discovered.

The pair of skeletons, which are centuries-old and holding hands have been uncovered at a ‘lost’ chapel by archaeologists.

The Mercury reported last week that the remains, of a man and a woman, were found at the Chapel of St Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton.

It is believed the pair holding hands are of a similar age.

Whoever they were, the man and woman must have died at the same time.

Leading the project is professional archaeologist Vicky Score, of the University of Leicester, who works on the project during her holidays.

She said carbon-dating on nine skeletons uncovered since the dig began had revealed them to be from the 14th century.

“’We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave. The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there?” she added.

“There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton. This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time.”

See more photos at ABC News.

I found earlier articles about skeletons of couples embracing each other. From NBC News, Prehistoric Romeo and Juliet Discovered.

They died young and, by the looks of it, in love. Two 5,000-year-old skeletons found locked in an embrace near the city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale “Romeo and Juliet” have sparked theories the remains of a far more ancient love story have been found.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons dating back to the late Neolithic period outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona, the city of Shakespeare’s story of doomed love.

Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, because their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.

“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Another one from HuffPo, Skeletons ‘Embracing’ In Death May Represent Gruesome Ancient Siberian Custom.

For years researchers in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia have puzzled over dozens of ancient grave sites containing bodies buried face to face, some seemingly with hands clasped as if in an eternal embrace.

But soon DNA tests may help provide an answer to the key question: Are these the graves of star-crossed lovers, or could the remains be evidence of a gruesome ancient custom?

The bodies are part of a massive burial ground located in the Siberian village of Staryi Tartas, the Siberian Times reported. Altogether, close to 600 tombs have been discovered in the area, dozens of which contain the so-called “embracing” couples.

The graves are believed to belong to the Andronovo culture, which existed in the area during the second and first millennia B.C.E., according to Britannica. Yet many of the bodies in the graves are believed to be from the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries B.C.E., the Siberian Times reported….

“We can fantasize a lot about all this,” Vyacheslav Molodin, an archaeology and ethnography expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Siberian Times. “We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death.”

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Wednesday Morning Reads: It’s a man’s world, still.

Ah, Good Morning!

I am sitting here on my bed, with my legs crossed, and my laptop propped up on top of them…it’s cold in here, so my blankets are up over my head. Funny. Just like a child who stays up late at night, reading under their covers with a flashlight. (Damn, do kids even do that these days?) I feel quite insignificant under these cozy blankets, and that was before I read this article on Congress. Now I can add that I am  feeling mad and insignificant.  Congress and its men. Specifically, the House of Representatives. House committee chairs all men

At the top of House committees, it’s a man’s world.

Not a single woman will lead any of the major House committees in the 113th Congress.

Figures, damn it pisses me off!
After a day of meetings closed to the public, the House Republican Steering Committee announced an all-male slate of committee chairs, including 12 returning lawmakers who will head up some of the most important panels in Washington.
They still have not chosen the leaders for the House Ethics and the Administration committees, but…as usual, nothing ever changes.

The top female contender to lead a major committee was Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, who lost a battle for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee to Texas Rep. Mike McCaul.

Women did make big gains in Republican leadership. Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be House Republican Conference chairwoman, Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins will be her vice chairwoman and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx will be conference secretary.

Wow, shame they could not find any women to fill those slots ay?

New chairmen include Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas atop Financial Services, Ed Royce of California on Foreign Affairs, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia on Judiciary, Lamar Smith of Texas on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania atop Transportation and Infrastructure.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was the only lawmaker to obtain a waiver to bypass House GOP rules to remain as a chairman for a fourth term. He will lead the Budget Committee again.

House Democrats are likely to have five women as ranking members committees: Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.) or Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) on Appropriations, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) on Financial Services, Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) on Rules, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) on Science and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.) on Small Business.

Uh, two dudes from Texas are heads of these committees? Well, I guess that Texas and their Secessionist leaning GOP wingnuts are well represented in these committees, don’t you?
I am going to stick with the GOP members of congress a bit longer, in fact…it is about my Congressman, Saxby Chambliss. He got kicked down by Erick Erickson yesterday.  Balloon Juice tackles this latest temper tantrum here:  Erick Erickson for Senate (Primary)!
…the Voice of the GOP Gated Community is very disappointed by his so-called ‘elected representative’ for talking about going off Grover Norquist’s reservation:

In a 900-word indictment of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, RedState editor and CNN contributor Erick Erickson described the Georgia Republican Tuesday as “waffling around like a dog off its leash for the first time.”…The RedState post, which laid out the conservative case in full against Chambliss, read a lot like a campaign manifesto, which maybe it was: Erickson said Tuesday evening on his radio show he’d been approached “by serious people” to consider a primary challenge and is giving it “prayerful consideration.”

An Erickson primary challenge would certainly make for great political theater. He’s won elected office before—he served one term on the Macon City Council—and could complicate Chambliss’s re-election bid. But as a leading conservative blogger, radio talk show host and frequent cable television presence, Erickson’s also got a long trail of writing and video that might not be so helpful in a statewide campaign…

Murphy the Trickster God does not love me enough to make this travesty happen. Almost certainly, Erickson is just scrambling to re-establish his Master-of-the-Universe status with the RedState tribalists while not losing his ‘sane moderate’ credentials at CNN, because C.R.E.A.M. But every bloviator political blogger looks in the mirror and sees a solon, and a ‘true conservative’ challenge to that dishonorable pus-sack Chambliss (the chickenhawk who got his seat by attacking actual veteran Max Cleland) might cause me to break my lifelong commitment to never donating to a Republican primary contender.

Please, someone get me a bucket…and a cleaning lady. Maybe speculating on a Erickson ticket is yet another sign that the Mayans were right about that end of the world thing. If asshole aka son of Erick is seriously considering running, my little part of Georgia will surely love to have the head of Red State as their representative. I am so sick of all of this.

Moving on.

Dakinikat called this weeks ago, New Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Chief of Staff will get the job.

I was considering doing a post with chin-stroking speculation about who the next Treasury secretary will be, but instead let me just tell you. It’s going to be Jacob Lew, the current White House chief of staff.

Why? Well, because the White House has decided that it wants the Treasury secretary to be deeply involved with budget issues, and who better than a former Office of Management and Budget director? What’s more, Obama has been working with Lew for a while now and likes him, and they’ve been working well together. All the other ideas kicking around involve bringing someone in from the outside who’d be taking over midstream and trying to establish a working relationship with the president and the Treasury team while simultaneously hammering out thorny bargains with House Republicans. It doesn’t really work.

See the link if you want to read the rest. Personally it is old news to us, because Dak brought up these points before…

There has been another killing of an unarmed young black man in Florida. Jordan Davis: Another Unarmed Young Black Male Gunned Down | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

http://angryblackladychronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/20121127-211557.jpg

Another senseless shooting death of a young unarmed black man in Florida:

Michael Dunn, of Satellite Beach, Florida, was in Jacksonville this past weekend for his son’s wedding.

Jordan Davis, 17, and some other teens were sitting in a SUV in a parking lot when Dunn parked next to them and asked the youths to turn down their music.

Jordan Davis and Dunn argued over the music, then Dunn, who is a gun collector, pulled a gun and shot eight or nine times, hitting Jordan twice, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Jordan Davis’ father Ron Davis said his unarmed son died in the arms of a friend in the SUV.

Dunn and his girlfriend took off, but witnesses wrote down their license plate number, according to the police.

The couple was staying in a Jacksonville hotel when they heard a news report Saturday morning about the shooting, so they drove home to Satellite Beach, Florida.

Dunn was arrested at his home on Saturday and charged with murder and attempted murder. He is being held without bail.

Because this occurred in Florida, we can expect another round of likely unfruitful discussions about the “stand your ground” laws that were at issue in the Trayvon Martin case. There will be handwringing and a public outcry, but nothing will be done, ultimately, because the ALEC-sponsored gun laws in this country are just fine, and if black kids don’t want to get shot for wearing a hoodie, or playing loud music, then that’s just too damn bad. They should stay home.

It is such a sad thing to read about…think about it for a moment. Makes you mad too?

I don’t want to finish on a down note.

Check out this feature from Vanity Fair, Photos: Iconic Film Stills Photographed in Their Real-Life Locations

Journalist Christopher Maloney walks to work through Central Park on most days, and last summer he made an observation. “Every day I walked past tons of locations from popular—and not-so-popular—movies,” he explains. He decided to start printing out stills from the films and comparing them to their real-life counterparts. “Since then, I’ve re-created more than 250 scenes around the city.” His work—which includes movies as varied as Midnight Run, The French Connection, and Shaft—can be found at his Web site, FILMography. “I’m actually surprised that locations used in the 1940s and 1950s haven’t changed that much,” he says. “But places used in movies last year are virtually unrecognizable.” New York also changes depending on the director, Maloney adds. “You can tell just how much filmmakers like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee love the city. It’s sometimes hard to believe that those three very different places are all the same city.”

Look at this:

Can you guess what film that is from? Yes, it is Cary Grant…in?

There is also this interesting read from Gin and Tacos: THE CONTEST EVERYBODY LOSES  It is a post about writing…crowdsourcing and giving the “middle finger.” Enjoy it…I did.

And I have to end this post with this funny cartoon. (Although I think it is missing something.) 11/28 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Stones | Mike Luckovich

mike112812

There should be a big set of lips on at least one of those stick figures!

Have a great day and let us know what is on your mind!