Friday Reads

morning-coffee

Good Morning!!

 

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.

Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).

Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.

While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.

I hope they’re right!

Now for the latest Ebola news . . .

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Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.

A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”

The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”

Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.

In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”

Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.

The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.

The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.

Amber Vinson

Amber Vinson

According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.

After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”

Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.

“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.

“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”

In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….

“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

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A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.

His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.

Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….

“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”

World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.

In other news . . .

Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.

The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.

Bill Clinton stumps for Coakley

I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.

WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.

Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.

“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”

Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.

“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.

Now we just need Hillary to show up.

How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:

Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.

But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.

In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.

“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.

He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.

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According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.

The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.

“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.

The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”

Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!

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Sunday Reads: Cold Temps, Cold Tea and Warm Bed

Good Morning!

It is cold in Banjoville, we are talking low 20’s, and living near the river makes the air feel damp and harsh.  I’ve avoided the news this weekend, there is something going around…like when you have a hunch that you are coming down with a cold…but instead of dreading it, you are actually welcoming it. Why? Because it gives you a reason to sleep all day and not have to explain your crappy attitude to your family and friends.

Actually, the yesterday started very well and exciting, but when I opened the fridge and was hit with the leftover turkey fumes, it just drained all the energy out of me.

Anyway, here are some links to get you started this morning. You got your cup of Joe? Mug of tea? (My tea is already cold.) Flask of Southern Comfort? (Some may prefer whiskey or vodka, but I love me some SoCo.)

Juan Cole had an interesting post this past week, If You are 27 or younger, you’ve never lived through a colder than average month (Bump)

Paul Bump at Grist points out that The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on global temperatures in October 2012 as follows:

“The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.”

He then did a quick calculation, and concluded that if you were born after April, 1985, i.e. if you are 27 or younger, you have never experienced a month with a global average temperature colder than the 20th-century average. (Obviously, you may have experienced a month at lower than local averages, though that would be rare, too; the point is about world averages.)

Cole links to a video from NASA:

One thing that is not cold, is the tension in Egypt. I have a few updates that you may not have read about yet:

Egypt braces for more protests

If Sunday is anything like the last several days in Egypt, it will not be quiet.

Egypt’s ElBaradei Calls on President to Rescind Near Absolute Powers

Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei has called on Egypt’s president to rescind the near absolute powers he has granted himself.

ElBaradei says President Mohamed Morsi must take the action to avoid the possibility of increased turmoil in the country that has recently shed its longtime repressive government.

Nobel laureate ElBaradei addressed crowds that gathered Saturday in Cairo’s central square to protest President Morsi’s decrees that put him above judicial oversight and protect his Islamist supporters in parliament.

Egypt’s highest body of judges, the Supreme Judicial Council, also condemned President Morsi’s decree. The judges Saturday called the move “an unprecedented attack” on the independence of the judiciary. Judges in Alexandria have gone on strike, saying they will not return to work until the decree is withdrawn.

Egypt rights groups and ElBaradei denounce Mursi decree

Anti-Mursi protesters chant slogans in front of the Supreme Judicial Council building in Cairo, 24 November 2012
Critics and supporters of Mr Mursi have staged rallies since the decree was announced

More than 20 Egyptian rights groups have called on President Mohammed Mursi to withdraw the decree granting himself extensive new powers.

The 22 groups signed an open letter saying the president “has dealt a lethal blow to the Egyptian judiciary”.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Middle East:

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Middle East crisis social media

Middle East crisis social media © Peter Broelman,Australia,Middle East,Israel,Hamas,Palestine,Palestinians,war,Gaza, gaza fighting

Here is an op/ed from Robert Fisk: Netanyahu leads Israel into isolation Go ahead and give that a read.

I’ve got more news that involves two sides fighting…this time in Japan, between the right-wing Nationalist and the environmentalist: Dueling protests in Tokyo over dolphin and whale hunts

Environmentalists and nationalists held opposing rallies over the issue of Japan’s dolphin and whale hunts in a rare showdown in central Tokyo on Saturday, leading to angry scenes.

About 50 anti-whaling activists gathered at a park in the Shibuya shopping district with banners bearing slogans such as “Stop the cruel dolphin hunt!” while across the street about 30 nationalists shouted “Get out of Japan!”

The nationalists accused the environmentalists of undermining Japanese culture and traditions, saying “environmental terrorists” should be sent to slaughter houses.

I can only think of that episode of South Park…Whale Whores:

Stan and his family are spending his birthday at the Denver Aquarium where they will get to swim with the dolphins. Things turn bloody when the Japanese attack, kill all the dolphins and ruin Stan’s big day. There seems to be no end to the senseless killing. Stan takes on the cause to save the dolphins from the Japanese.

Down in Cuba, there is quite a stir about a recently elected official: Cuban transsexual elected to public office

Adela Hernandez

Adela Hernandez hailed election triumph as another milestone in gradual shift away from macho attitudes in Caribbean country. Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP

A Cuban transsexual has become the first known transgender person to hold public office in the country, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.

Adela Hernandez, 48, hailed her election in a country where gays were persecuted for decades and sent to rural work camps as another milestone in the gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.

Hernandez, who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for “dangerousness” after her own family denounced her sexuality.

“As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are the minority,” Hernandez said by phone from her home town. Becoming a delegate “is a great triumph”, she added.

This is a big deal in Cuba:

For years after the 1959 Cuban revolution, authorities hounded people of differing sexual orientation and others considered threatening, such as priests, long-haired youths and rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts. But there have been notable changes in attitudes toward sexuality.

“I would like to think that discrimination against homosexuals is a problem that is being overcome,” Castro told an interviewer some years ago.

Read the rest of Hernandez story at the link.

I’ve got another transgender, I guess it is more of a cross-dressing story for you. This one is about The 72-year-old Chinese grandfather who models teen-girl clothes I will just post a picture…you can click to see the rest.

18 November 2012 01:09 PM

offbeatchina.com

…and, what is more, looks pretty good doing it. Kate Moss, eat your heart out, the world’s newest superpower has a new supermodel to match. But Liu Xianping is not your average clothes horse.

Why does that image remind me of Andy Warhol?

More newsy articles after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: Fallen Idols, President Pushover, Worsening Weather, Rogue Federal Agency, and More

Good Morning!! I’ve got a variety of interesting reads for you today, so let’s get right to it. Imagine the guy who wrote these words:

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”

Now imagine that he admired Ronald Reagan.

John Lennon, the long-haired British peacenik who was investigated by the FBI in 1972 after he allegedly contributed $75,000 to a group suspected of planning to disrupt the Republican National Convention later was a closet conservative….Fred Seaman, who was Lennon’s personal assistant from 1979 until the singer’s assassination in 1980, claims the former Beatle and anti-war activist favored Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter and would have voted for the Gipper if he could have.

“John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on Jimmy Carter,” Seaman told Seth Swirsky, who is making a film about the Fab Four.

Seaman said the guitarist “met Reagan back, I think, in the ’70s at some sporting event.”

“Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young [peace] demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that,” Seaman told Swirsky in excerpts published in the Toronto Sun. “He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.”

I don’t even know how to respond to this stunning news. Lennon was apparently a Reagan Democrat. If he’d lived he probably would have been an Obot too….

NYT: Violent Clashes in the Streets of Athens

Confrontations between the police and protesters reached a violent climax here on Wednesday as armored riot officers beat back demonstrators and fired volleys of tear gas into the crowds who had gathered outside Parliament. Inside, lawmakers approved a package of austerity measures aimed at helping Greece avoid a default.

On the second day of a two-day general strike called by unions, rogue protesters also attacked the Finance Ministry on Syntagma Square across from Parliament and set fire to a post office in the ground floor of the building. The King George Palace, a luxury hotel that faces the square, was evacuated in the afternoon.

A police spokeswoman said that 31 police officers were injured and that 30 people had been detained, leading to 11 arrests. Local news media reported that dozens of protesters were hospitalized, and video clips showed the police striking people with their batons.

Amnesty International released a statement on Wednesday condemning the “repeated use of excessive force by police in recent demonstrations, including the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other chemicals against largely peaceful protesters.”

Is this what’s coming for the U.S.? At a press conference today President Obama warned Republicans to wake up and smell the tax increases (aside: I’m not holding my breath for Obama to follow through).

President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.

Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.

In a 67-minute news conference, Mr. Obama cast the budget battle as a tug of war between the interests of the rich — like owners of corporate jets, who he said get generous tax breaks — and those of the middle class, the elderly and children.

But Obama himself offered at best very weak tea:

Mr. Obama, under assault from Republicans on the campaign trail for an unemployment rate that remains above 9 percent, asked voters to understand that the economic recovery would take time but said that Washington, even in its current financial straits, could still do more to help. He expressed support for extending a reduction in payroll taxes for an extra year, providing loans for road and bridge-building and approving trade pacts that could help spur exports.

Big whoop. Why didn’t he fight to end the Bush tax cuts then?

Ezra Klein explains “How you know the negotiations have truly failed.”

The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.

“The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious,” writes Greg Sargent. “He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich.” That’s exactly right. But he didn’t want this fight. He wanted a deal. And he wasn’t able to get one that the White House considered even minimally acceptable. After putting more than $2 trillion of spending cuts on the table, they weren’t even able to get $400 billion — about a sixth of the total — in tax increases.

The conventional wisdom is that now this fight moves to the people. I’d put it differently. Now this fight moves to the consequences. Neither side is going to give in the face of purely rhetorical salvos. The White House is expecting Republicans to accuse them of wanting to raise taxes. The Republicans are expecting the White House to accuse them of putting the interests of large corporations and wealthy donors in front of the needs of seniors, children and the poor. Both parties have seen the poll numbers behind their positions. If a few news conferences were going to be sufficient to end this, it would never have started.

Climate experts warn that “epic weather” will continue because of climate change

Epic floods, massive wildfires, drought and the deadliest tornado season in 60 years are ravaging the United States, with scientists warning that climate change will bring even more extreme weather.

The human and economic toll over just the past few months has been staggering: hundreds of people have died, and thousands of homes and millions of acres have been lost at a cost estimated at more than $20 billion.

And the United States has not even entered peak hurricane season.

“This spring was one of the most extreme springs that we’ve seen in the last century since we’ve had good records,” said Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

While it’s not possible to tie a specific weather event or pattern to climate change, Arndt said this spring’s extreme weather is in line with what is forecast for the future.

The Boston Globe reveals that fishermen in Gloucester, MA and up and down the Atlantic coast were the victims of abuse of power by NOAA.

About a decade ago, the Commerce Department’s fish police started a fight with Larry Ciulla, who owns and operates the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction with three other family members. Claiming that the auction had exceeded the day’s catch limit by one 60-pound fish, the regulators levied a $120,000 fine and ordered a 90-day shutdown.

Outraged, Ciulla challenged the penalty. He turned to Gloucester lawyer Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who is now a state representative and whose grandfather, father, and uncle were fishermen. Together, they decided to take on the agency known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In need of political backup, they went to US Representative John Tierney, whose district covers Gloucester. Eventually, their grass-roots effort drew in the mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford, the Bay State congressional delegation, and a bipartisan string of lawmakers from Maine to the Carolinas.

This year, federal officials finally acknowledged their own regulators had gone rogue. They were guilty of overzealous, abusive, and targeted enforcement, a series of independent investigations revealed. Regulators were levying crippling fines for invented or inflated offenses, as they relentlessly bullied an entire industry. They were using the fishermen’s money to finance a fleet of cars, a luxury boat, and assorted foreign junkets.

Please read the whole sordid story.

Twitter has released fascinating data on the number of tweets and direct messages during and after the Japan earthquake.

“On Twitter, we saw a 500% increase in Tweets from Japan as people reached out to friends, family and loved ones in the moments after the March 2011 earthquake,” said the company on its blog.

Kirstin Powers interviewed Michele Bachmann, and learned that the Tea Party queen is no feminist.

Unlike Sarah Palin, who has brandished the feminist moniker and spoken of an “emerging conservative feminist identity,” Bachmann told me in an interview Tuesday that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist—instead, she simply described herself as “pro-woman and pro-man.” When I pressed her on the matter, the Minnesota congresswoman said she sees herself as an “empowered American.”

Bachmann seemed loath to engage in the kind of girl-power rhetoric utilized by Palin and Hillary Clinton, who both invoked the perennial—and so far unbreakable—presidential glass ceiling.

Said Bachmann: “I’m a woman comfortable in her own skin. I grew up with three brothers. My parents didn’t see us [as] limited [by gender]. I would mow the lawn and take out the trash; I was making my own fishing lures. I went along with everything the boys did.”

Bachmann is still doing everything the boys do, but as a female candidate she endures indignities that are foreign to your average male pol. Yet she takes it all in stride.

Don’t you just love it when smarmy, self-righteous people are brought low? I know I do. Despite the fact that I loathe pedophiles, I’ve always been turned off by Chris Hansen and his obnoxious TV show “To Catch a Predator.” Now Hansen himself has been caught on “candid camera.”

Chris Hansen has found himself on the receiving end of his own hidden camera tactics, after the married NBC anchor was secretly filmed on an illicit date with a blonde television reporter 20 years his junior.

Hansen, 51, has allegedly been having an affair with Kristyn Caddell, a 30-year-old Florida journalist, for the last four months.

ROFLOL!

Secret cameras filmed the couple as they arrived at the hotel for dinner and then drove back to her apartment – where the pair left, carrying luggage, at 8am the following day.
Hansen lives in Connecticut with his wife Mary, 53, but he has been spending more and more time in South Florida investigating the disappearance of James ‘Jimmy T’ Trindade – and allegedly sleeping with Miss Caddell.

The cameras belonged to The National Enquirer. Fortunately for Hansen, Miss Caddell is slightly beyond the age of consent.

"Agony," by Bert Adams

Finally, here’s a nice summery story to get you ready for the upcoming long weekend: Work’s a Day at the Beach for Sand-Castle Consultants

CANNON BEACH, Ore.—On a recent weekend, sand creatures were sprawled across this Pacific Coast beach. There were sea horses by a giant squid, with an “Attackin’ Kraken” sea monster nearby, along with several pigs, some giant mice and an amputee octopus.

Many of the sand sculptures had the same point of origin: They had been built by people who at one time or another were advised by Bert Adams, one of the nation’s handful of professional sand-castle consultants.

“They did well,” said Mr. Adams, a 51-year-old former electrical engineer, as he surveyed the array of creations made by his onetime students at Cannon Beach’s 47th annual sand sculpting tournament.

“He’s a great mentor,” says Amos Callender, an Olympia, Wash., architect who took a course—Sand 101—that Mr. Adams taught two years ago. Mr. Callender and his team took first place at Cannon Beach last year, while this year they built a sand sculpture depicting “the good life”—a wine lover sporting a beret; a mouse tucking into a giant wheel of cheese—that finished second.

What a great idea. Now if only I could find a niche that would pay me big bucks for something I love doing!

So what are you reading and blogging about today? Hit me with it!