Tuesday Reads

Matisse1

Good Morning!!

I hope everyone is keeping warm this morning, as the deep freeze continues across most of the U.S. We’re expecting a little more snow this afternoon and evening, as winter storm Dion moves up the east coast. We’re fortunately that New England has suffered very little from this storm. Not too far south of us, it’s a wintry mess.

Weather Underground has the details

Winter Storm Dion is not done with the East Coast yet. It’s delivering a parting shot of quick, heavy snow that will blanket the entire I-95 corridor Tuesday morning, snarling traffic and flights as snow falls at the rate of 1-2 inches an hour.

“Dion is barreling in like a freight train,” said The Weather Channel’s winter weather expert Tom Niziol. “The snow is going to come down so heavily. We’re looking at very quick accumulations of 3-5 inches of snow. It’s going to overwhelm the streets and make a rough commute.”

The federal government is closed for a second day for non-emergency workers. Other employees are expected to telecommute Tuesday. All Washington D.C. area schools are closed as well.

“It’s been 1,048 days since Reagan National Airport had a 2 inch snowfall, but that could change Tuesday morning,” said The Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel, reporting from Leesburg, Va.

1,650 flights were canceled nationwide Monday. Hundreds more flights are already canceled Tuesday morning.

“The good news is it’s a very quick storm,” said Niziol. “Conditions are already deteriorating Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. Philadelphia is after that.  By about 10 a.m. Tuesday morning the entire I-95 corridor is covered by falling snow. By mid-afternoon the Northeast will improve and by the evening commute, Dion will be past Boston.”

Read the rest for the “state-by-state impacts.”

kandinsky winter2

In Nevada, a couple and four children are missing after they went to “play in the snow” in the mountains. From the NY Daily News: 

Rescue teams are scouring the Seven Troughs mountain range for James Glanton, Christina MacIntee, their two children, a niece and a nephew after the six went to go “play in the snow” in the remo[t]e northwest region, authorities told NBC News.

The family was reported missing late Sunday night and police are racing against time as temperatures dip far below the freezing level, according to reports.

“The temperatures out here are very cold. We would like to bring a successful end to this,” Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado told KTVN. “We would like to find them as soon as we can.”

The six were last seen in a silver Jeep cruising at a mining area roughly 20 miles from their home.

Driving into the mountains in the middle of a snowstorm is definitely not a good idea. I just hope these people can be found alive.

Fox News:

Rescue teams racing against the clock and the bitter cold worked into the night and were hoping to resume an aerial search Tuesday for a couple and four children who have been missing since Sunday when they went to play in the snow in the remote mountains of northwest Nevada.

“It’s got to be brutal out there,” said Mark Turney, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “Let’s hope they are found quick.”

The temperature was expected to drop below zero again Tuesday after plunging to minus-16 degrees the day before in Lovelock, the rugged area where the group was believed to be, about 100 miles northeast of Reno….

The family has not had any communication with others since they went missing, according to Sheila Reitz of the sheriff’s office.

They went to the Seven Troughs area on isolated federal land about noon on Sunday in a silver Jeep with a black top, authorities said. It was unclear what supplies they might have been carrying.

“I’m hoping they all huddled together and stayed in the Jeep,” said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen, who added that the area has spotty cellular coverage. “That would be a best-case scenario.”

I have a bad feeling about this–but there’s always hope. I really really hope there will be a happy ending to this story.

vasily_kandinsky-winterlandscape

When I woke up early this morning, NPR was broadcasting live from the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Here’s a link to the NPR live blog of the events. The BBC reports on President Obama’s speech:

Mr Obama delivered his address to huge cheers. He said: “It is hard to eulogise any man… how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice.”

He spoke of how the example of Nelson Mandela had “set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today”.

Mr Obama said: “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. While I will always fall short of Madiba (Mr Mandela’s clan name), he makes me want to be a better man.”

NPR reported there were also enthusiastic cheers for Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton.

Washington Post: South Africans, world leaders gather to mourn former president Nelson Mandela.

SOWETO, South Africa —Nelson Mandela was memorialized in a boisterous stadium ceremony here Tuesday as a teacher and a racial healer, a transcendent figure who changed history and touched hearts in his native country and around the world.

Scores of thousands of South Africans braved a pouring rain to join dozens of world leaders, including President Obama and many other heads of state, for a four-hour service filled with emotional tributes and joyous song.

“It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you,” Obama said, using the Xhosa tribal name that Mandela preferred. “He changed laws, but also hearts.”

South Africans from all walks of life, businesspeople to nurses to the unemployed, danced and clapped and sang in the hours leading up to the memorial service, their voices echoing across the stadium as if they were cheering at a soccer match. The rich crowded together with the poor, children with the elderly, all there to remember Mandela, the former South African president and African National Congress leader who died Thursday at the age of 95.

winterlandscape kids

The anniversary of the Newtown, CT massacre is this Saturday, Dec. 14, but the town has decided against holding a public memorial.

Residents of Newtown, Conn., have decided against a public commemoration to mark the first anniversary this coming Saturday of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.

Instead, the town is endorsing a “year of service” and is asking residents to put a candle in their window on Dec. 14, the day of the shooting, to show their commitment to the idea of service to each other.

Newtown families have also announced the creation of the website “My Sandy Hook Family,” where people can post their remembrances.

Newtown resident and psychiatrist John Woodall is an expert on resilience and a member of the committee that decided not to hold a town-wide event for the anniversary. He speaks with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the decision.

You can listen to the interview at the “Here and Now” link.

Mother Jones: At Least 194 Children Have Been Shot to Death Since Newtown.

A year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones has analyzed the subsequent deaths of 194 children ages 12 and under who were reported in news accounts to have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides. They are spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns.

Following Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders. But the data we collected stands as a stark rejoinder to that view:

  • 127 of the children died from gunshots in their own homes, while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.
  • 72 of the young victims either pulled the trigger themselves or were shot dead by another kid.
  • In those 72 cases, only 4 adults have been held criminally liable.
  • At least 52 deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.

Additional findings include:

  • 60 children died at the hands of their own parents, 50 of them in homicides.
  • The average age of the victims was 6 years old.
  • More than two-thirds of the victims were boys, as were more than three-quarters of the kids who pulled the trigger.
  • The problem was worst over the past year in the South, which saw at least 92 child gun deaths, followed by the Midwest (44), the West (38), and the East (20).

Our investigation drew on hundreds of local and national news reports. In some cases specific details remain unclear—often these tragedies are just a blip on the media’s radar.

winterlandscape picasso

This has turned out to be a sad post, although I didn’t plan it that way. I’ll end with something interesting and not sad. A group of British scientists has analyzed the environments described in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as “an exercise in how climate models work” and to demonstrate their validity. From the University Herald:  ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Landscapes Analyzed And Compared To Real Places In British Study.

Scientists at Britain’s Bristol University compared the climates of famous “Lord of the Rings” sites such as Mordor and The Shire to regions of the world, the San Jose Mercury News reported. They also generated computer simulations of various middle earth landscapes based on information given in the book (notorious for their vast amount of details not always directly related to the plot).

For example, Los Angeles, western Texas, and Alice Springs in Australia have climates closest to Mordor, the site of Sauron’s fortress.

As a whole, however, “the climate of Middle Earth has a similar distribution to that of Western Europe and North Africa,” according to the researchers, one of whom identified himself as Radagast the Brown after the wizard who lives among J.R.R. Tokien’s fictional nature.

The above finding isn’t too surprising, given that Tolkein was from England. His landscapes either resembled the places he knew best or the place he likely found most exotic (Africa). The Shire, home to hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, could have easily stood for Lincolnshire or Liecestershire, as researchers found environmental similarities between all three, according to the press release.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread–and have a great day!


Sunday Reads: Fetuses are not people, my friend…and other irritating hypocrisies.

[Pulp magazine]: Weird Tales -- March 1934, Volume 23, Number 3.. Indianapolis, Indiana: Popular Fiction Publishing Company. 1934. Magazine. Cover by Margaret Brundage.

[Pulp magazine]: Weird Tales — March 1934, Volume 23, Number 3.. Indianapolis, Indiana: Popular Fiction Publishing Company. 1934. Magazine. Cover by Margaret Brundage.

Good Morning

Earlier this week we saw one hypocrisy after another. 

Can someone explain this to me?

How can a fetus…at seven months, a viable seven months mind you, not be a person? But…the clump of cells being aborted by a woman, who is executing her own right to choose, which is legal mind you…thanks to the Supreme Court….how can that clump of cells be a “child.”

I will tell you how, money…that is how fetuses are not people my friends!

Just take a look at some of these articles from this week alone.  Emphasis mine…

Anti-Abortion Protest Of 40th Roe V. Wade Anniversary Draws Thousands

Among the speakers at Friday’s rally was Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and staunch abortion opponent who last year unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination.

He recalled the love and support the country showed for his young daughter, Bella, who was born with a serious genetic condition and whose illness led him to take some time off from the campaign trail. He cited his daughter’s life — “she is joyful, she is sweet, she is all about love” — as a reason to discourage abortion even in instances when women are told that it would be “better” for their unborn children to have one.

“We all know that death is never better — never better. Really what it’s about is saying is it would be easier for us, not better for her,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you … Bella is better for us and we are better because of Bella.”

He said the anti-abortion cause was made up of people who every day advocate for their position outside abortion clinics and at crisis pregnancy centers.

This movement is not a bunch of moralizers standing on their mountaintop preaching what is right,” Santorum said.

One demonstrator, Mark Fedarko, 44, of Cleveland, said he regularly stands outside of abortion clinics in hopes of discouraging women from going inside.

There’s God’s law and man’s law,” he said. But I follow God’s law first. Like it says right here, thou shall not kill. That’s the end of the story. We need to protect these children.”

Ah…children. We must protect the children!

John Boehner: Ending Abortion Is ‘One Of Our Most Fundamental Goals This Year’

Addressing the crowd at the National Mall via video broadcast, Boehner said it’s time for anti-abortion activisits to “commit ourselves to doing everything we can to protect the sanctity of life.” Step one, he said, is making permanent the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest.

“For the new Congress, that means bringing together a bipartisan pro-life majority and getting to work,” Boehner said. “In accordance with the will of the people, we will again work to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, formally codifying the Hyde Amendment.”

Boehner said he will make it a national priority to “help make abortion a relic of the past.”

“Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year,” he said.

Yes….a fundamental goal…protect the sanctity of life.

But wait a moment: A Fetus Is Not a Person if it Costs us Money, Says Catholic Church

You know how the Catholic Church is always going on and on … and  on and freakin’  on … about the sanctity of life and also a bunch of vague concepts about liberty ‘n stuff? We can’t have abortion because every sperm is sacred. We can’t have insurance coverage for women’s health care because  something about Taco Bell and freedom. We can’t even  fund cancer screening because apparently Jesus was cool with women dying of undetected breast cancer.

And all of this—all of it—goes back to the Church’s insistence that life begins with your very first hell-worthy dirty thought and must be protected at all costs, despite all consequences, including, of course, the consequence of dead women, whose lives are not nearly as valuable as the “life” of an unborn fetus. In just the past year, the Church has called upon its faithful followers to march, to starve themselves, to go to jail, to even take up arms—all to protect those fetuses. No exceptions. None. Not if the fetus is already dead inside the womb. Not if the fetus is going to kill the actual living woman carrying it. No goddamned exceptions EVER.

Well, except for one: when it’s going to cost the Church money.

Turns out, when a man sues a Catholic hospital for malpractice because his wife and the twins she was carrying inside her died when she turned up in the emergency room and her doctor never bothered to answer a page—well, things get a little tricky. Yes, the Catholic hospital adheres to the strict Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, as set forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And yes, those directives include the claim that “[t]he Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn” and a mandate to uphold “the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death.'” But come  on. That obviously does not apply when Catholic Health Initiatives, the Church-affiliated organization that runs the Church-affiliated St. Thomas More Hospital where a young woman and her two unborn fetuses died, is the lead defendant in a lawsuit.

What? I just read a bunch of news articles that says we must save the sanctity of life, these unborn children, from being aborted, and now the church argues a wrongful death court case because fetuses aren’t people?

In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people

Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

And get this, the Catholic hospital won the argument.  Catholic hospital chain beats malpractice suit by saying fetuses aren’t people

Catholic Health Initiatives is a non-profit conglomerate organization that owns roughly 170 health care facilities in 17 states, with national assets totaling around $15 billion.

Catholic hospitals purportedly base their ethical practices on the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, which were authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. These guidelines state that, “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death. The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn.”

Catholic Health Initiatives’ promotional literature states that its mission is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” The chain’s refusal to dispense contraceptives, perform abortions or to offer end-of-life services has placed it at odds in business deals attempting to acquire secularly governed hospitals in the past.

Practicing what that “good book” tells ya to is one hell of a money maker, eh? Fucking assholes!  The hypocrisy of this story against the backdrop of the anti-abortion protesters in DC makes me want to drop kick a priest, bishop, nun or a frothy….orange politician!

Hey, but in New Mexico…fetuses aren’t people either…they are considered evidence. New Mexico Bill Would Send Rape Victims to Jail for Aborting ‘Evidence’

If you thought the so-called “rape caucus” was fading away, there’s new evidence — and we mean evidence — that some Republicans are still going to make a lot of people upset with what they see as legitimate concerns about rape. New Mexico State Rep. Cathrynn Brown has now introduced a bill that, if she has her way, ultimately could see rape victims charged with felony and three years in prison if they fail to carry their pregnancies to term.

Brown’s argument is that fetuses are evidence of sexual assault, and “tampering with evidence” is a third-degree felony. Here’s a key part of the actual bill, in case this stuff still seems unbelievable to you.

This story was updated by the way…

It appears that Brown has figured out that no one really liked her bill and that her bill, as it was stated, was rather unclear. The state representative apparently is submitting a substitute bill, the New Mexico Telegram reports. Brown said:

House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims … Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist—not the victim—would be charged with tampering of evidence. I am submitting a substitute draft to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear.

So, what (we think) Brown, a pro-life Republican, means is that she’s trying to punish rapists who try and cover their tracks by getting their victims to have abortions. Which is a lot different than the bill she first introduced, which stated that any person “procuring” an abortion should be punished for “tampering.”

It still is a fucked up way to handle something like rape…I mean, if a woman is raped and gets an abortion…is tampering with evidence just another charge filed against the rapist? Yeah…like it is so damn easy to bring a rapist to prosecution.

Like proposed laws throughout the country, these legislators are taking things too far…remember the one in Georgia that made miscarriages a crime? Just because Obama won, and all those idiots who made ridiculous statements about rape lost their bid to go to Washington, doesn’t mean we have heard the last of the war drums from the christian right’s fight against women.

I know that you have heard me say this before, but one area where we could get some folks who will give women a fighting chance against these PLUB dumb asses, is to put more left-minded judges to work in the federal courts.  For example, take the recent decision that came down this week too, Court rules Obama recess appointments unconstitutional

A federal appeals court, dealing a defeat to President Obama, has sharply limited the chief executive’s power to bypass the Senate and to make temporary “recess” appointments to fill vacant slots in government agencies.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in a 3-0 ruling,  said the president can make recess appointments only when the Senate has formally adjourned between sessions of Congress, not when lawmakers leave Washington for a brief break.

The White House is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court, but look at this…from Susie Madrak: Judge Who Ruled Against Recess Appointments Is A Wingnut

Just thought I’d point out the long-time wingnuttery and judicial activism of D.C. District Judge David Sentelle, the Reagan-appointee circuit judge and Jesse Helms protegee — the man who appointed Kenneth Starr — who just invalidated Obama’s NLRB appointments, thus kicking off a whole potential mess o’legal chaos!

The D.C. district is second only to the Supreme Court in its importance, and of course it has three (soon to be four) vacancies, which Republicans refuse to allow Obama to fill.

Susie points to this post from Daily Kos back in 2010:

This Daily Kos post from 2010 sums it up pretty well:

Sentelle.jpg

Back to Sentelle, the lead judge of this circuit court, and a reminder that this is someone who, when he gets a chance, puts his right wing, authoritarian political beliefs over and above the principle of justice. Is it any wonder that the reason he became a judge is that he was appointed by Ronald Reagan, a man who also whenever he got a chance, also put his own right wing, authoritarian political beliefs over and above the principle of justice.

This is, for example, the same partisan hack who voted to overturn the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter, for their Iran Contra crimes.

This is, for example, the same partisan hack who appointed his fellow partisan hack Kenneth Starr for his witchhunt of the Clintons.

This is, for example, the same partisan hack who enthusiastically supported the “Military Commissions Act” and its destruction of habeas corpus for enemy combatants; if you are David Sentelle and the government accuses you of a crime, you are guilty until you can prove innocence, rather than the other way around, and the government can throw up all sorts of roadblocks to prove your innocence. Unless, of course, you are someone like Ollie North. Then, of course, your innocence is fully presumed.

The man has no business wearing a judge’s robe, and is a disgrace to our supposed rule of law.

Emphasis Susie’s…

Another opinion on this decision from the LG&M’s blog: Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional – Lawyers, Guns & Money

Oh, great. The opinion is an atrocity, classic “hack originalism for dummies,” relying heavily on the fact that recess appointments during nominal sessions of the Senate are a relatively recent phenomenon (although there’s precedent going back to 1867, and “[t]he last five Presidents have all made appointments during intrasession recesses of fourteen days or fewer”), without considering that the Senate systematically refusing to consider presidential nominees is also a contemporary phenomenon.

Read the rest of that post at the link.

Obama needs to put his “stamp” on those federal district court justices.

Here is one article that I saved away when I read it originally earlier this month, from Charlie Savage: Obama Lags on Filling Seats in the Judiciary

President Obama is set to end his term with dozens fewer lower-court appointments than both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush achieved in their first four years, and probably with less of a lasting ideological imprint on the judiciary than many liberals had hoped for and conservatives had feared.

Multimedia

Mr. Obama’s record stems in part from a decision at the start of his presidency to make judicial nominations a lower political priority, according to documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration officials and with court watchers from across the political spectrum. Senate Republicans also played a role, ratcheting up partisan warfare over judges that has been escalating for the past generation by delaying even uncontroversial picks who would have been quickly approved in the past.

But a good portion of Mr. Obama’s judicial record stems from a deliberate strategy. While Mr. Bush quickly nominated a slate of appeals court judges early in his first year — including several outspoken conservatives — Mr. Obama moved more slowly and sought relatively moderate jurists who he hoped would not provoke culture wars that distracted attention from his ambitious legislative agenda.

“The White House in that first year did not want to nominate candidates who would generate rancorous disputes over social issues that would further polarize the Senate,” said Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Obama’s first White House counsel. “We were looking for mainstream, noncontroversial candidates to nominate.”

Noncontroversial? Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Like everything else we hear out of Obama’s mouth….but that is another topic for another post.

You can read another article on Obama’s weak-ass attention to the Judicial appointments from Robert Kuttner, published last year: The Courts: How Obama Dropped the Ball

In his novel King of the Jews, Leslie Epstein sets his story in the wartime ghetto of Lodz, Poland, where the Gestapo ruled through an appointed council of Jewish elders. Epstein, researching the book, tracked down the gallows humor of the time. In one such joke, told by a character in the novel, two Jews are facing a firing squad. The commandant asks if they would like blindfolds.  One of the condemned whispers to the other, “Don’t make trouble.”

“Don’t make trouble” could have been the credo of the first year of the Obama Administration. The White House calculated that if the president just extended the hand of conciliation to the Republicans, the opposition would reciprocate and together they would change the tone in Washington. This was the policy on everything from the stimulus to health reform to judicial nominations. It didn’t work out so well.

Now, spurred by the tailwind of a re-election victory and the realization that public opinion is on his side, President Obama has displayed a new toughness in his budget battle. He has declared that he won’t negotiate against himself, and the strategy is working. But the White House is still stuck in don’t-make-trouble mode on the crucial issue of judicial appointments, where the pace of nominations is only now catching up with that of Obama’s predecessors and the strategy for avoiding partisan confrontation gives Republicans something close to a veto over who is nominated.

I will leave you to read those two articles in full…and now, I give you the rest of the day’s reads in link dump fashion.

Hey Kat, Jindal is not the only one fucking things up: Sam Brownback’s Kansas is a Resort Town for “Makers”

Much like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Governor Sam Brownback is busy turning Kansas into a right-wing paradise, with low wages, few public services, and reactionary social policy. Since 2010, when conservative Republicans—including Brownback—took full control of the state, Kansas has passed strict new anti-abortion laws as well as large cuts to education and mental health care services. And last year, Brownback signed a bill that cuts state income taxes by roughly $3.7 billion over five years, and collapses the state’s current three-bracket tax system into two brackets: 4.9 percent and 3 percent.

That tax cut took effect this month, and as the New York Timesreports, it’s the largest reduction in Kansas history. It’s also only the beginning; this week, Kansas Republicans introduced a bill that would pare taxes further, and eventually eliminate the state’s individual income tax.

As with Jindal’s proposal in Louisiana, this would deprive the state of needed revenue; existing tax cuts are already expected cost nearly $850 million in the coming year. Additional cuts will balloon those costs, and force further reductions to state services.

Now an update from Newtown, Sandy Hook probe to extend until summer, prosecutor says … WTF? I really would love to know if I am the only one who finds it strange that we still know less about Adam Lanza then we do about all those other mass shooters since Sandy Hook.

Stephen King has an essay available on Kindle: Guns (Kindle Single): Stephen King: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

In a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.

King’s earnings from the sale of this essay will go the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Check it out! It is only $0.99.

Here is an article from a couple of weeks ago: LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPY: As plus-size sales soar, our columnist meets the models making a big impact on the high street.  Nice to see real sized women models getting noticed.

In Romania, Stray Dogs Are Better at Crossing the Street Than People.

Traffic police in Romania are fed up with pedestrians’ blatant disregard for designated crosswalks, opting to instead dash across busy streets at their own, oftentimes fatal, detriment. In an effort to raise awareness of this sheer idiocy, traffic police have released a series of TV ads highlighting the citizens that understand the function of those big white lines painted on the pavement are for: Stray dogs.

Semida Duriga, the director of Romania’s Next Advertising agency, created and launched the ads upon learning the unsettling statistics regarding the number of careless pedestrians killed or grievously injured when hit by oncoming motor vehicles. According to the chief of Romania’s traffic police, Lucian Dinita, roughly 360 of these collisions were fatal while another 1,200 required intense medical attention.

Unlike humans and their all-encompassing drive to reach the taco truck across the street regardless of the consequences, Romania’s stray dog population heeds the importance of traversing crosswalks and understands that the green light applies to cars and not living organisms. This uncanny level of canine adroitness is what inspired Duriga to film these dogs from various Romanian cities in action for the ads.

I am not sure if that is a compliment to the dogs or not?

Okay, here is a link to a scientific study, this one is about Socially isolated rats are more vulnerable to addiction, report researchers.

And another article on findings from a recent study, this one dealing with Household chores: Gender equality’s final frontier.

Let’s finish up with a link to an article about 3-D printers. Seriously, I thought this was a load of shit, but it isn’t…it is for real! Dutch architect to build house with 3D printer

A handout computer generated image shows a house designed by Dutch architecture practice Universe Architecture on Jan. 14, 2013. Photo via AFP.

A Dutch architect has designed a house “with no beginning or end” to be built using the world’s largest 3D printer, harnessing technology that may one day be used to print houses on the moon.

Can you believe it?

Well, this is a real long post…hope to see you all in the comments. Have a great day and share your thoughts with us!


Tuesday Reads, Part II: In Other News….

blues cycle

I’m back with more reads!!

Before I get started with the political news, here a very strange story from Chicago: Urooj Khan Homicide: Chicago Lottery Winner’s Death Re-Classified After Cyanide Poison Discovery

With no signs of trauma and nothing to raise suspicions, the sudden death of a Chicago man just as he was about to collect nearly $425,000 in lottery winnings was initially ruled a result of natural causes.

Nearly six months later, authorities have a mystery on their hands after medical examiners, responding to a relative’s pleas, did an expanded screening and determined that Urooj Khan, 46, died shortly after ingesting a lethal dose of cyanide. The finding has triggered a homicide investigation, the Chicago Police Department said Monday….

In June, Khan, who owned a number of dry cleaners, stopped in at a 7-Eleven near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side and bought a ticket for an instant lottery game.

Ashur Oshana, the convenience store clerk, told The Associated Press on Monday that Khan said he had sworn off gambling after returning from the hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage, in Saudi Arabia. Khan said he wanted to lead a better life, Oshana said, but Khan bought the tickets that day and scratched off the winner in the store.

“Right away he grabbed my hand,” Oshana said. “He kissed my hand and kissed my head and gave me $100. He was really happy.”

Not long afterwards, Kahn was dead. Now police will likely exhume his body and try to find out who killed him.

clinton
I’m sure you heard that Hillary Clinton went back to work yesterday, and her coworkers gave her a gag gift–a football helmet.

Cheers, a standing ovation and a gag gift of protective headgear greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she returned to work on Monday after a month-long absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a fall and a concussion and finally a brief hospitalization for a blood clot.

A crowd of about 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton with a standing ovation as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since early December, according to those present. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a “contact sport, sometimes even in your own home” then presented Clinton with a gift — a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.

She was also given a blue football jersey with “Clinton” and the number 112 — the record-breaking number of countries she has visited since becoming secretary of state — printed on the back. Aides said Clinton was delighted with the gifts but did not try either of them on and the meeting turned to matters of national security and diplomacy.

“She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Did you hear about GOP Connecticut State Rep. DebraLee Hovey, who attacked Gabby Giffords for visiting Newtown? From the Hartford Courant:

In content and syntax, state Rep. DebraLee Hovey embarrassed herself, the General Assembly and the state.

Ms. Hovey, a Republican who represents Newtown and Monroe, blasted the visit to Newtown on Friday by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat, who met privately with local officials and families of victims of the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Gabby Gifford stay out of my towns!!” Ms. Hovey posted on Facebook over the weekend (misspelling the former Arizona congresswoman’s last name). In the comments thread, Rep. Hovey seemed to complain that she wasn’t invited (she was at a meeting in Florida at the time) and claimed the visit was political: “There was pure political motives [sic].”

How do these loony-tunes get elected? Hovey later offered a pathetic non-apologetic “apology.”

The remarks I made regarding Congresswoman Gifford’s visit were insensitive and if I offended anyone I truly apologize … My comments were meant to be protective of the privacy of the families and our community as we work to move on, and were in no way intended as an insult to Congresswoman Giffords personally. Our community has struggled greatly through this tragedy, and we are all very sensitive to the potential for this event to be exploited for political purposes. This is what I wish to avoid.

What a moronic asshole.
Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Reads: Flowered Floats and Fiscal Cliffs and Fruitless Lawsuits

3f05186vGood Morning

How did y’all spend your first day of 2013?

Were you watching the fiscal “parley” of enemies down in the swamp?

After seeing what as become Obama’s calling card, his apparent need for approval and for people to “like” him…that makes Obama a shitty negotiator, I could not stand the constant cliff talk on all the news channels.

If, you avoided the news frenzy over the fiscal bunny slope, as Dakinikat calls it, you can read the updates as it happened here. Boston Boomer also posted this link in the comments, you should not miss it:

Political Animal – Obama and the Anxieties of the Financial Meritocracy

Otherwise, you can take a look at the following two articles:

‘Fiscal Cliff': Congress Passes Compromise to Avert Recession – ABC News

Amid Pressure, House Passes Fiscal Deal – NYTimes.com

(Check out Biden’s grin at that NYT link…he sure is pleased with himself.)

Yesterday was the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade . The still make those floats out of all natural flowers and plants, and even though the Rose Parade commentary can be annoying as hell, I still like to see the pictures of the floats and performers.

FireShot Screen Capture #369 - 'The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade I Jan_ 1, 2013 - Framework - Photos and Video - Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times' - framework_latimes_com_2013_01_01_2013-rose-para

Dole’s “Dreaming of Paradise” float, love the flaming volcano! Click image for more photos of the parade.

This year Dole won the top trophy, the third time in a row…The colors are wonderful and brilliant, way much nicer than the other tropical color we have seen a lot of lately. You know, that tangerine orange skin tone of the big man on the hill.

Blossoming with lush tropical flowers and fresh fruits grown by Dole just for the Rose Parade, the award-winning float “Dreaming of Paradise” honored the independent family farmers from around the world that Dole partners with, and paid tribute to the beauty and bounty of Latin America’s tropical paradise.

The float, which heralded Dole’s mission of being actively involved in the communities of independent family farmers, also served as a reminder that with responsible, sustainable growing and operating practices the dream of paradise can remain alive.

To capture the essence of a tropical landscape, the Dole float featured a 26-foot erupting volcano complete with smoke and real fire shooting 20 feet into the sky over prowling tigers, fluttering butterflies, chimpanzees, parrots, dragonflies and three life-like waterfalls cascading more than 1,000 gallons of recycled water. Fully completing the spirit of Latin America, twenty Costa Rican dancers dressed in traditional costumes performed alongside the exotic and rare flowers from around the world.

That Paradise float is over 22 tons! Ooof!

FireShot Screen Capture #370 - 'The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade I Jan_ 1, 2013 - Framework - Photos and Video - Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times' - framework_latimes_com_2013_01_01_2013-rose-para

This image is also from the parade, you can click that photo of the Korean dancers to see more Rose parade pictures.

Of course, New Year’s Day does not only bring floats of flowers, it also brings plenty of college football. One state university that was nowhere to be seen on any bowl game field was Penn State. Their football program was punished by the NCAA for ignoring the obvious child abuse that was taking place within their “winning” football machine. A punishment that I thought lacked enough oomph in relation to the level of pain and trauma Penn States non-action caused. Well, guess what? The State of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA. Money is honey and it is all that matters. State of Pennsylvania to file lawsuit against NCAA

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will announce a federal lawsuit against the NCAA tied to the historic sanctions levied against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Corbett will hold a press conference on Wednesday morning in State College, Pa., to announce the suit, which will be filed by the state.

Penn State, which has been working in concert with the NCAA since the scandal, is not involved in preparing the suit. It is being handled solely by the state.

Corbett’s office has been vague in regard to the specific aim of the suit, but it appears to be dedicated to the overall sanctions issued by the NCAA in July. Corbett referred to them on Tuesday as “illegal sanctions.”

A wholesale suit against the NCAA by a third party as powerful as the state of Pennsylvania could loom as an important case in testing the ultimate power of the NCAA.

This suit against the NCAA could also have repercussions with any civil cases yet to be brought against Penn State University, as well as, the State of Pennsylvania because PSU is a state-run university.

Another possible suit that floated about news headlines this past week was proposed by the parents of a surviving victim of the Sandy Hook Shooting. However, it required prior approval by the state’s claims commissioner for the lawyer to even file a lawsuit against the state. Though the child’s attorney has withdrawn the request, I still feel it is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

The State of Connecticut has some of the most wealthiest residents in the nation, it also has a law that gives the state sovereign immunity against lawsuits…the only one in the country were only one person has the power to approve a suit brought against the state.  Check this out…for an Attorney to seek permission to sue the State they must first get one man to sign off on it. For a…

…lawsuit to proceed…(you) need a single man in an obscure agency in Hartford to agree — J. Paul Vance Jr., the state’s claims commissioner.

Vance’s power is unparalleled. Connecticut’s system, experts say, is unlike that of any other state.

“From the lawyers I have spoken to in other states, this is not something they have ever heard of,” said David Cooney, immediate past president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association.

Seems like this one man is the all powerful Oz when it comes to “who” can hold the state accountable for their actions.

The position, which dates back to the 1970s and is appointed every four years by the governor and Legislature, determines whether many types of claims of damages or injury lodged against state government are “just.”

The commissioner, after reviewing evidence and if necessary, scheduling hearings, can: Approve immediate payment of claims worth $7,500 and under; recommend the General Assembly pay or reject claims over $7,500; and allow lawsuits against Connecticut to proceed.

His decisions can only be appealed to the Legislature.

According to a decade’s worth of reports, the fewest number of claims submitted were 288 in fiscal year 2006-07, with the most — 586 — in 2004-05. Since 2004, an average of two dozen lawsuits have been allowed to proceed each year.

Hey, the state’s claims commissioner is an important and influential post. I’d imagine this dude has many ethical decisions to make every day…not just whether lawsuits are justified to move forward, but also addressing any conflicts that arise from who or what company this commissioner associates with…I mean, this is a sensitive position to hold.

The role of the claims commissioner originates with the principle of sovereign immunity: Governments should be protected from paying damages private citizens can be held liable for.

“Sovereign immunity is something we got from England,” said Richard Kay, a University of Connecticut law professor. “It originates in the phrase, `The king can do no wrong.’ Nonetheless, in modern times, given all the things a state does … you want the state accountable for its wrongs.”

So, Kay explained, processes were established for states to grant the right to be sued. Initially in Connecticut, claims were filed with the General Assembly, then a commission was created and whittled down in the 1970s to one person.

Michael Tardif, a Washington-based lawyer who in 2005 helped author a report on sovereign immunity, said many states have decided to waive that protection, instead setting damage caps to protect finances.

“In most you can go to court and file a lawsuit,” Tardif said.

Other states may also have commissions or boards that must approve lawsuits against the state, but they have several members who must vote on whether the suit can go forward or not. In Connecticut, only one man holds ALL the cards.

“It’s a bizarre, convoluted and arcane system,” said state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, a senior member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, the first stop for claims appeals. “Hopefully it weeds out bad claims. The risk is it also weeds out legitimate claims.”

Cooney, who has handled around two dozen claims cases, argued, “You have one person who has the complete discretion to say either you can file a lawsuit or not … I don’t see any reason why the state should have this mechanism in place to make it incredibly difficult to sue the state when no other corporate entity or individual has the same shield.

“If a judge hears it and there’s no legal basis for a claim, the judge will render a judgement for the state,” Cooney said. “Our clients would feel they’re getting a fairer shake because they get their day in court.”

And just who is this man? Well, his name is J. Paul Vance Jr., and he gave up his Waterbury mayoral bid when he was first appointed to the position by Gov. Daniel Malloy in the Fall of 2011. (You can read about the politics of this appointment here.)

Vance, Jr’s comments have caused some concerns from litigation lawyers in Connecticut. When he was given the claims commission job, Vance’s comments to the Waterbury Republican American were:

“I’ve always been a litigator, primarily defense, so this is the perfect fit for me.”

According to Bridgeport Attorney Charles Willinger, who represents the victim of a chimp attack and has been waiting for Vance’s decision on their request to sue the state.

“The claims commissioner has been described by the Connecticut Supreme Court as `the conscience of the state.’ What he is supposed to be doing is not defending the state against claims.”

Vance declined to discuss pending matters, but he said he knows his responsibilities.

“My job is not to protect the state,” Vance said. “It’s to make sure it’s a fair process for people.”

“There is that (sovereign) immunity, and there are situations where that immunity should be yanked.”

That is a huge responsibility for Paul Vance Jr. to hold, and if the claims commissioner’s name sounds familiar, it should. His father is J. Paul Vance, Sr., the official “spokesman” for the state police in charge of the Sandy Hook investigation.

We have seen Vance Sr. in action during the past few weeks giving information, or should I say…not giving information, during press conferences about the Newtown shooting.

I’ve stated repeatedly that I have a gut feeling about the peculiar attitude of Lt. Vance Sr. at these press conferences. There is something strange about the lack of information coming forward too. As Dak mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago:

….people are trying to understand what caused this to happen or at least what factors contributed to it. The only thing that I’ve noticed about this particular shooting is that the police haven’t been very forthcoming with anything. In some of the other shootings, we had all kinds of people coming forward and the police offered up a lot of different bits and pieces of information. The Head of the State troopers hasn’t been saying anything which leads to all kinds of rumors and speculation as people try to understand how something this horrible could happen. I think it’s just people looking for answers when no information has been forthcoming from the traditional sources. Think of how we knew immediately from the Aurora Mall shooter’s school and the Tuscon Mall shooter’s school and parents about their issues. They both had to even go through the criminal justice system so it’s rather odd that the Connecticut State Police seem so tight about whatever it is they have. Again, I think it’s just rampant speculation because no has come forward with anything concrete. Probably doing the community a lot of injustice and likely the shooter and his mom who both are the sources of all kinds of media rumors.

I got the impression Lt. Vance was very defensive about giving information on the investigation. You can click this link below to review the press conference I am talking about:

WATCH: CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE UPDATE ON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TRAGEDY

Lt. Vance has a defensive attitude about his position as the singular voice of authority for all the various agencies investigating the shootings.

Maybe that has something to with Lt. Vance’s immediate family connection to the man who must approve any lawsuits the shooting victim’s families bring against the state.

Sounds like a conflict of interest to me…

And there is a difference in the tone and substance of the information they are releasing.  Take the Columbine shooting, and how that was handled in the press:

Officials In Newtown Follow A Well-Worn Media Script

In setting himself up as the sole source of reliable information, the state police spokesman was following a well-worn script for getting control of a big, growing story, says Steve Davis, who experienced similar challenges as the official liaison to the media covering the 1999 mass shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

‘Brutally Honest’ When Needed

On the day of the Columbine shootings, Davis was on the phone and first realized something was wrong when officers rushed out of the office. Within minutes, he was in a car on his way to the high school, trying to make sense of dozens of early and contradictory reports.

“I know it’s hard to imagine now that it could have been any worse, but there were reports that day that we had as many as eight gunmen in the school. Some were [reportedly] hiding in ductwork,” remembers Davis, who is now the spokesman for the police department in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

Davis said he told reporters at Columbine, “Look, let’s try to understand that there’s going to be a lot of misinformation here. I will try to confirm it and reconfirm it before I give it to you.”

But Davis said he also was “brutally honest” when needed. “Sometimes I had to tell them, ‘You know what? I do know the answer to your question, but … I can’t release it quite yet.’ “

He set up on-the-hour news conferences to keep reporters informed and control the flow of information.

“A big part of each news conference was just rumor control,” Davis says. But he took all questions and did his best to get timely answers for reporters, he says.

Davis seems to have been genuinely concerned with relaying information to the public, more forthcoming with information and less arrogant with his attitude.

Considering the state has also decided to keep affidavits and warrants sealed, is there something the state wants to keep out of the press?  Sandy Hook affidavits remain sealed

A state Superior Court judge said Thursday that search warrant affidavits for the cars and home of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza and his mother would stay sealed for another 90 days.

Judge John Blawie granted motions filed Wednesday by Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky to extend the statutory sealing period for the five warrants, including three for the Yogonanda Street home where the 20-year-old Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, four times in the face on the morning of Dec. 14, before embarking on the rampage that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

The judge’s order also covers the two other search warrants, for the 2010 Honda Civic Adam Lanza drove to the school and for Nancy Lanza‘s 2009 silver BMW, which was parked in the garage attached to the home.

“The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the state’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,” Blawie wrote.

Those warrants and affidavits would have been made pubic 14 days after the being filed with the court.  Danbury’s State Attorney Sedensky said…

 …his applications that the affidavits contained information “not known to the general public” and that premature disclosure would “seriously jeopardize the outcome and success of the investigation” by “divulging sensitive and confidential information” known only to investigators.

Although no arrests have been made and “none are contemplated,” Sedensky also said the possibility has not been ruled out, and that releasing the information would make it difficult to solve crimes that others might have committed.

I understand the need to control the information coming out, and keep rumors and false media reports at bay, however much of the information first given by Lt. Lance was incorrect. (Like the name of the shooter, the weapons used to kill the students and faculty, etc.)

We have heard absolutely nothing new from Lt. Lance, in fact the only recent update to the investigation is reported by The Hartford Courant: Police To Re-Create Scene Outside Sandy Hook School

State police are considering partially re-creating the scene outside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 as the first police officers responded to the mass shooting to try and answer a nagging question: Did Adam Lanza fire at police officers?

Police are discussing bringing back some of the cars that were in the school lot as the first Newtown officers and state police troopers arrived following 911 calls that was a shooter was on the loose. The cars will be placed exactly where they parked that morning as will the police cruisers of the first responders. The plan is to receate the scene in the coming week.

[...]

Police have found numerous bullets outside the school that hit at least three cars, including the one owned by Lauren Rousseau, who was killed by Lanza in her classroom along with 14 of her students and a special-education aide. The three cars that were hit, belonging to Sandy Hook staffers, were near where at least one of the first group of officers parked before running into the school, sources said.

Why weren’t these bullet holes investigated earlier?

Sources said the bullets that hit cars outside probably were fired from teacher Victoria Soto’s room. That was the second room Lanza entered as he firing at teachers and students. Soto and her aide, Mary Ann Murphy, were killed there, as were six students. Six other children escaped because, police believe, Lanza stopped firing briefly either because his gun jammed or he had trouble reloading his gun. Seven other students survived because Soto hid them in a closet.

Investigators are trying to determine if the bullets fired into the parking lot were strays as Lanza fired in Soto’s classroom or if he saw officers arriving and fired through the window at them. Investigators have done trajectory work in the classroom but now want to line up the police cars and see if it is possible some of the bullets were aimed at them.

No cruisers were hit and none of the officers interviewed so far has indicated that they were shot at. But several of the officers involved in the initial response have not been interviewed yet because they are still traumatized and they may not have realized they were being shot at as they ran towards the school.

Now, that article was published on Dec. 29th…and it states several of the initial response officers have not been interviewed yet? That seems strange to me….what do you think?

The partial re-creation will likely be one of the last things state police do at the school before wrapping up that part of the investigation. There are no plans to recreate what happened inside the school or to interview any of the students who survived, police say.

Well, it seems like police should talk to the students who survived for possible information relative to the case, it would also help these kids talk through this violent shooting that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

There have been several shooting deaths since the Sandy Hook massacre, and we know more about those crimes than we do about this shooting in Newtown. Think back to the information that was released in the days and weeks after the Holmes shooting in Aurora. The press had plenty of reports about James Holmes and what evidence they had found.

I sound like one of those conspiracy nuts, but there is a nagging in the back of my mind, and I can’t quiet let it go.

So, that is what I have for you this morning, be sure to post links to what you are reading today…hope to catch up with you later in the comment section.


Wednesday, the day after….Morning reads.

Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey

Good morning everyone.

Horrible weather is making its way across the US, so first…before we get to any reads, make sure you keep an eye out for bad storms.

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States

Severe Weather Warnings Page

This image of a lighted tree in a pope mobile/sleigh is appropriate for the wet and cold days this holiday.

Let’s start this post with some thoughts on Newtown, CT., both of which are very emotional…for different reasons.

Mom of Sandy Hook Child Victim Shares Daughter’s ‘Message From Beyond the Grave’ in Incredibly Moving CNN Interview

Grace McDonnell was one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School this month. As her parents are grieving the loss of their bright-eyed, seven-year-old daughter, they can take at least some solace in a sign of comfort that she left behind.

Grace was known for leaving messages on the family’s bathroom window — notes and symbols that would show up once fog clouded the room from shower steam. And the day after her death, seemingly on cue, one of these notes appeared to her mother.

Grace McDonnell Leaves Sign for Her Mother Lynn on Bathroom Window | Sandy Hook

Grace McDonnell, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre (Photo Credit: CNN)

On the first day without her daughter, Lynn McDonnell said that the message on the window was a peace sign, Grace’s favorite symbol. Above it were the words, “Grace, Mom.” CNN was moved to call the family’s finding “a message from beyond the grave.”

“I looked and there was her peace sign in the window and I was like, ‘That’s a sign from my Grace,’” Lynn said. ”She was all about peace and gentleness and kindness.”

Heartbreaking. As many of us are thankful this holiday season is almost over, it makes me stop and think how lucky we are to even have a holiday filled with the usual stresses and family dinner get-together, whether they are enjoyable or not.

The other link I have for you is just more discussion on gun-control, in an op/ed from Michael Moore: 3 Reasons America Is Falling Apart — And How We Can Save Ourselves

After watching the deranged, delusional National Rifle Association press conference on Friday, it was clear that the Mayan prophecy had come true. Except the only world that was ending was the NRA’s. Their bullying power to set gun policy in this country is over. The nation is repulsed by the massacre in Connecticut, and the signs are everywhere: a basketball coach at a post-game press conferencethe Republican Joe Scarborougha pawn shop owner in Floridaa gun buy-back program in New Jerseya singing contest show on TV, and  the conservative gun-owning judge who sentenced Jared Loughner.

So here’s my little bit of holiday cheer for you:

These gun massacres aren’t going to end any time soon.

That is just the first few lines of the op/ed, please take a look. I don’t usually post links to the rants of Michael Moore…but he sure as hell got the Columbine story the attention it deserved…along with other gun related shootings and killings in his film, Bowling for Columbine. Anyway, take a few minutes to read his opinion.

This next story is fascinating from an environmental stand-point.  After you read it, just think of the disaster in the making:  Proposed Coles Hill uranium mine: Buried treasure or hidden threat?

Beneath an estate that’s been farmed by the Coles family since just after the Revolutionary War lies the nation’s largest untapped uranium deposit, a potential $10 billion bonanza amid rolling hills, oak trees, pastures and a historic plantation home.

The radioactive treasure in the Blue Ridge foothills is pitting neighbor against neighbor and North Carolinians against Virginians. North Carolina is only about 20 miles from the proposed uranium mine and residents, public officials and lawmakers there worry that a catastrophic release of radioactive waste could poison Kerr Lake, the drinking water source for more than 118,000 North Carolinians, as well as contaminate the fishing- and recreation-rich Roanoke River as far east as Pamlico Sound.

With the recent ProPublica report on the contamination of water aquifers by the US government, this “mother-lode” of radioactive uranium seems like a mining operation that is just asking for trouble.

From the Guardian, this question is one we all should be asking…from Carl Bernstein:     Why the US media ignored Murdoch’s brazen bid to hijack the presidency

CEO Rupert Murdoch

The Ailes/Petraeus tape made clear to many that Murdoch’s goals in America have always been nefarious. Photograph: Reuters

So now we have it: what appears to be hard, irrefutable evidence of Rupert Murdoch‘s ultimate and most audacious attempt – thwarted, thankfully, by circumstance – to hijack America’s democratic institutions on a scale equal to his success in kidnapping and corrupting the essential democratic institutions of Great Britain through money, influence and wholesale abuse of the privileges of a free press.

In the American instance, Murdoch’s goal seems to have been nothing less than using his media empire – notably Fox News – to stealthily recruit, bankroll and support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in the 2012 election.

And like the rest of the articles I have for you this morning, it is just a few first lines, read the rest at the link.

That is all I have for you this morning, how was your holiday and what have you been ready lately?


Sunday Round-Up

coffee birdGood Morning

My daughter is still sick with the flu, but she is getting better…unfortunately I think she has passed it on to me. I am just hoping that my flu shot kicks in and the symptoms don’t get any worse.

Here’s the latest news out of Newtown. (And there is really nothing “new” in the way of information…and Philo Vance, I mean Paul Vance has been conspicuously absent, is his microphone packed away for good?)

From the Hartford Courant, we have our only bit of new information on the investigation.  Sandy Hook Shooter’s Pause May Have Aided Students’ Escape

As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza‘s deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

A source said that the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shootings is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.

The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six educators Lanza killed in Newtown after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.

On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated it had anything to do with the shootings.

Finally, some sort of words about Lanza and medical records. Damn, it has been like Adam Lanza just dropped out of nowhere, no records or “social networking” footprints have been found. (I still think it is all too strange, the silence…and the attitude of the various “authorities.” Something still feels fishy to me!)

Anyway, you can watch the Newtown police chief interview here, it is a quick few minutes at the start of the CBS Evening News: 12/22: Newtown police chief shares his story- CBS News Video

The chief also shares his opinion on armed patrol officers guarding schools. That should be  enough of a tease for you to watch it.

Another thing to give a few minutes to is this report from All Things Considered: Near-Replica Of Sandy Hook Made Nearby For Students : NPR

I’d love to hear from Dr. Boomer about the new school being made into a “near-replica” of a place so many of these children survivors associate with unbelievable violence and horrible death.

On the subject of this carnage in the classroom, Roland Martin has this op/ed on CNN America should see the Newtown carnage

“One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom.”

That’s a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo.

When taping this week’s edition of my show, “Washington Watch,” Sirius/XM Radio host Joe Madison somberly said the same thing. Joe remarked that Emmett’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for her son so the world could see what was done to him by racists in Mississippi.

Many Americans may not even remember Emmett Till, a precocious 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman in a store, and the woman’s husband and his brother later went to the home where Till was staying, pulled him out of his bed, took him somewhere and beat him to a pulp, gouged out his eye, blew the back of his head away with a gun, attached a cotton gin with barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.

I think Martin may have a point. Look at the images from the Civil War, and how they shaped the mindset of the population. It brought the bloody war home to the people in a way that stories in the newspapers could not.

When Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper published his battered face on their covers, it sent shock waves throughout America, and especially in the black community. The brutality of lynchings were talked about and covered, yet for the world to witness with its own eyes the end result of vicious bigotry, it forced the nation to examine its conscience.

“There was just no way I could describe what was in that box,” Mamie said. “No way. And I just wanted the world to see.”

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, we have seen numerous photos of the beautiful, smiling faces of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images we have become accustomed to include them singing at a piano, sporting the gear of a favorite sports team and others. When we think of them being memorialized it’s in the context of teddy bears, candles and flowers.

Americans want to remember them as vibrant and fun-loving children, but will that actually shake the conscience of America to do something about how they were gunned down in the classroom?

Please go read the rest, and let me know what you think about viewing the crime scene photos, and if that can make the horror more real to those people who seem bent on keeping gun control/legislation as is…and actually put more guns and assault weapons in the hands of the regular public, who don’t need these kind of semi-automatic military rifles to shoot a deer.

Speaking of those pro-gun lobbyist, take a look at this: Newtown’s firearms tradition clashes with gun control push

When the wind blows a certain way across the tree-topped hills, Gary Bennett can stand in his yard and hear echoes of gunfire from his hunting club five miles away. The sound comforts him.

“It’s a huge tradition here,” said Bennett, a retired electrician and former president of the club, which helped defeat a proposal to tighten Newtown, Conn.’s gun ordinances in September. “I’d rather see more gun clubs come to town, training people with the use of firearms so that everyone’s doing it safely.”

Anguished families are still burying the 20 children and six women who were shot to death by a lone gunman Dec. 14 just after the morning Pledge of Allegiance at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But a surprising local undercurrent has emerged: Many gun owners here say the slaughter has sharpened their view that guns alone aren’t the problem.

The article interviews folks who feel that there should be armed people at these schools.  “Somebody…” to take out the shooter. But all I can say is go back and watch that interview with the Newtown Police Chief, who does not think that armed patrol is the answer.

I’ve got one story here about Walmart, funny in a way: Walmart Sells Assault Weapons But Bans Music With Swear Words

Yup, no sale of music that contains the words, “fuck you” but they will gladly sell assault weapons that are only good for “fucking someone up…” killing them and making the surviving family’s life a living hell.

The rest of the links are slightly connected…I mentioned photographs of the disfigured and bloated dead Civil War soldiers above, well this past week was the anniversary of one of the most deadliest series of battles fought. From the New York Times: ‘The Day the Stars Wept’

The majority of fighting at Fredericksburg had ground to a halt as the sun slipped below the horizon on Dec. 13, 1862. Ghastly piles of dead men and horses were scattered in the fields, and the woods were littered with abandoned equipment and debris. Sporadic gunfire continued as exhausted survivors on both sides ventured out into the war-blasted landscape to rescue wounded comrades.

In one sector of the battlefield, the men of the Fourth Vermont Infantry had endured a day of intense enemy artillery and infantry fire. The regiment suffered more than 50 casualties, including 18 killed and wounded when a spray of lead balls from single Confederate canister shot tore into one company.

Whether it is images of this American Civil War or photos of the other civil war, the war for civil rights, fought one hundred years later…or the war in Europe…being able to look at images of the dead, or smell the shoes of thousands of holocaust victims, can we learn from the violence. It is the only way to stay connected with the past, and make sure we do not forget it.

Illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s sketch of pickets near Fredericksburg, circa December 1862
Library of Congress Illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s sketch of pickets near Fredericksburg, circa December 1862

The Vermonters occupied a skirmish line in the twilight. George Washington Quimby, the 27-year-old acting major of the regiment, stood conspicuously among the men. A peacetime high school principal, he cautioned his boys to “keep low to avoid danger” while random shots whizzed through the air. They obeyed the command and sat or lay down.

On the Confederate side, a soldier leveled his musket and squeezed the trigger. Hammer struck percussion cap and caused a spark that ignited gunpowder and propelled a conical shaped Minié bullet down the muzzle.

Quimby never saw it coming.

Read the rest of that NYT story at the link up top, and you can see images of the dead and read more about the battle here:

Battle of Fredericksburg – December 1862 Civil War Battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia

http://0.tqn.com/d/history1800s/1/0/Z/-/-/-/Antietam-roadside-fence-Gardner.jpg

Photo via the Library of congress.

In other news, the White House has changed its “opinion” of those frankenfish… I mean, genetically engineered fish. White House Reverses Itself, Lifts Political Block on FDA Approval of GM Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration today released an electronic version of its Environmental Assessment for a genetically modified (GM) salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts—effectively giving its preliminary seal of approval on the first transgenic animal to be considered for federal approval.

According to sources within FDA, the EA had been approved by the all the relevant agencies on April 19, 2012, but had been blocked for release on orders from inside the executive branch—which has raised both legal and ethical issues of political interference with science and the independent work of federal agencies.

The decision by the White House to rescind its order to block the FDA from releasing the EA came Wednesday within hours after the publication of an investigative report by the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) last Wednesday documenting that the executive branch had been hold the EA for political reasons.

Well fuuuuuuuck…..that!  And of course, this change of heart comes during a media filled frenzy of Fiscal Cliffs, dead children, Santa and Gun Control. Humph!

I’ve got another fish story for you, Megapiranha put T. rex’s bite to shame, says study

You ready for this?

Tyrannosaurus rex and megalodon, a gigantic shark that preceded the great white, have nothing on the black piranha and the extinct megapiranha when it comes to chomping power. Researchers at George Washington University report that, relative to its size, the megapiranha bite was more powerful than T. Rex and history’s largest shark. According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the black piranha was determined to have a biting force behind its powerful teeth of up to 320 Newtons.

“Comparisons of body size-scaled bite forces to other apex predators reveal S. rhombeus and M. paranensis have among the most powerful bites estimated in carnivorous vertebrates. Our results functionally demonstrate the extraordinary bite of serrasalmid piranhas and provide a mechanistic rationale for their predatory dominance among past and present Amazonian ichthyofaunas,” the authors write in their study.

Holy Ceviche! That is some powerful jaws…

…the piranhas’ aggressive nature, small body size and easy-to-access populations make them a great group of predatory vertebrates in which to examine the evolution of powerful chomping capabilities. Researchers believe that piranhas will attack and rip chunks of fins and flesh from prey regardless of size. Prior to this study, however, no data on the piranhas biting powers was available for researchers to use.

Researchers gathered the first bite-force measurements from wild specimens of the black piranha. Using these measurements, they were able to better understand the fundamental functional morphology of the jaws that gives the black piranha the ability to chomp down on its prey with a force that is more than 30 times greater than its weight. Researchers contend that this powerful biting force comes from the large muscle mass of the black piranha’s jaw and the deft transmission of its big contractile force through a modified jaw-closing lever.

Researchers believe that the ancient megapiranha shared a common trait with black piranhas: An extremely powerful bite. They reconstructed the bite force of the megapiranha and found that, despite its small body size, the chomping power of this extinct piranha was more powerful than that of megalodon.

Lots more at the link.

And finally, let’s end this post with a pretty picture, cold…sharp and clean:  Frost Flowers…Suddenly There’s A Meadow In The Ocean With ‘Flowers’ Everywhere

…little protrusions of ice, delicate, like snowflakes. They began growing in the dry, cold air “like a meadow spreading off in all directions. Every available surface was covered with them.” What are they?

“Frost flowers,” he was told. “I’d never heard of them,” Jeff says, “but they were everywhere.”

Frost flowers in the central Arctic Ocean.

Stay warm and enjoy the last Sunday before Christmas…see you later in the comment section!


Friday Nite Lite: Cartoons

Good Evening

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.

AAEC – Political Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton Times/Tribune – 12/15/2012

Cartoon by John Cole -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Scott Stantis, Chicago Tribune – 12/15/2012

Cartoon by Scott Stantis -

AlterNet Comics: Jen Sorensen on Respect for the Dead-ly | Alternet

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 12/13/2012

Cartoon by David Horsey -

This is an open thread.