Wednesday Reads: Booklist, Playgrounds and Lawsuits

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Good  Morning

Running a little late this morning, so thanks for bearing with me…

I want to start this post off with a few links to end of year book list.

First, the New York Times Sunday Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

It is a staple read for me…and it goes without saying, that I must include the kids list of books too:

Notable Children’s Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

Then we have this interesting grouping from The New Statesman: Books of the Year 2013

Each year we ask regular contributors to the Critics pages of the New Statesman, together with other friends of the magazine, to write about their favourite books of year. There are no constraints on what kinds of books they are able to choose, so the results are often intriguing.

John Gray  ❦  Ali Smith  ❦  Ed Balls
Stephen King   ❦   Rachel Reeves  ❦  Sarah Sands
William Boyd  ❦  Alan Rusbridger  ❦  Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Simon Heffer  ❦  Andrew Adonis  ❦  Craig Raine
Felix Martin  ❦  Frances Wilson  ❦  John Burnside
Jesse Norman  ❦  Alexander McCall Smith  ❦  Richard Overy
Jason Cowley  ❦  Mark Damazer  ❦  Lionel Shriver
Jemima Khan  ❦  Geoff Dyer  ❦  Laurie Penny
Vince Cable  ❦  Alan Johnson  ❦  Leo Robson
Jane Shilling  ❦  John Bew  ❦  Ed Smith  ❦  Richard J Evans
David Baddiel  ❦  Michael Rosen  ❦  John Banville
David Shrigley  ❦  Chris Hadfield  ❦  Tim Farron
Toby Litt  ❦  David Marquand  ❦  Robert Harris
Michael Prodger  ❦  Michael Symmons Roberts  ❦  Sarah Churchwell

One book that was picked by a few of the folks up top:

Andrew Adonis

The trials and tribulations of modern France yielded my two best books. Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy (Hutchinson, £18.99) breathes deep pathos into the Dreyfus affair, electrifying the bitter divisions of Third Republic France, which led ultimately to its disintegration in 1940.

I looked into it, and it is not being publish on Kindle or here in the US until January 2014. It sounds really good.

Anyway, check those list out and let us know what tickles you, or what books you would suggest.

One of the books in that New Statesman link connects to another article I have for you this morning. Look here:

David Shrigley

My favourite art book of the year is Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’sLiterature 1920-35 (Redstone Press, £35). It juxtaposes beautiful illustrations with texts from writers such as Daniil Kharms and missives from the Soviet state. The artworks are photographed: they retain the flat, matt, paper quality of the originals. It’s a lovely book and there’s nothing in it that is too familiar. I love the subheading, too: Beautiful Books, Terrible Times.

And since the Holidays are about the little ones…both young and old alike, here are some awesome kick ass playgrounds around the world: The Most Amazing Playgrounds in the World (PHOTOS) – weather.com

Playgrounds have certainly come a long way from the ubiquitous swing sets and monkey bars – just visit your neighborhood fast food joint. But lately, we’ve noticed some amazing play spaces popping up all over the world that ditch the plastic ball pit in favor of truly imaginative designs.

Hakone Open Air Museum, 'Woods of Net'

From the whimsical and fantastical to the just plain cool, these amazing constructions are setting a pretty high bar for your local schoolyard. Whether it’s integrating seamlessly with the natural landscape, creating living storybooks or recycling trash into treasure, these playgrounds make brilliant kid-friendly design look like child’s play.

Seriously, take a look at some of these fun grounds.  The ones from Denmark, like that photo above, are really surreal. Then there is a playground in St. Louis that looks like the one from the movie The Wiz.

Okay, just one more “book” link for you. Fifty Years Later, Why Does ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ Remain Contentious? 

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on pressing and provocative questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Rivka Galchen on why Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” remains contentious fifty years after it was first published.

I don’t know why, even though that New York Times Review of Books article is new…there is something Déjà vu about it.

And sticking with history a bit longer: Slave artifacts found at Georgia highway project site

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

Photo by Rita Elliot, AP Photo/New South Associates Inc.

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

A Mexican coin punctured with a small hole, nails from long-decayed wooden dwellings, and broken bits of plates and bottles are among thousands of artifacts unearthed from what archaeologists suspect were once slave quarters at the site of a planned highway project in Savannah.

A team hired to survey the site by the Georgia Department of Transportation spent three months excavating 20 acres of undeveloped woods tucked between a convenience store and apartments off busy Abercorn Extension on Savannah’s suburban south side. Archaeologist Rita Elliott said the project yielded a staggering 33,858 artifacts believed to date from about 1750 until after the Civil War.

Historical records show that a wealthy Savannah attorney named William Miller owned a large plantation at the site and at one time had 87 slaves, Elliott said. Archaeologists didn’t find the main plantation house but believe many of the artifacts they found are consistent with slave dwellings.

“These people are pretty anonymous in the historical records,” Elliott said. “The archaeology may not tell us much about their names, but it will tell us about their lives.”

As for the sheer volume of items recovered at the site, Elliott said, “It’s not unheard of. But this is a lot of artifacts.”

Take a look at the rest of that piece…what a story.

Of course I will use that tale of slavery, forced labor and submission to segue into this next article: Forced into a C-section: The latest violation of pregnant women’s rights

In a surreal case that’s lawyers are calling “unprecedented,” an Italian woman who was visiting the U.K. last year for work while pregnant with her third child says she wound up undergoing a forced caesarean and had her baby taken away from her. She is currently waging a legal battle to have her returned.

The story, which broke Sunday in the Telegraph, is a harrowing one. The woman, whose family says she is bipolar and needs medication, had “something of a panic attack” in her hotel room, and called the police. After telling her they were taking her to the hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK,” she says she was shocked to find herself instead in a psychiatric facility, where she was restrained for several weeks. Eventually, after being told one morning she couldn’t have breakfast, she was forcibly sedated and woke up several hours to the news that her baby daughter had been removed by social services. Soon after, she was sent home without her child.

Back home and back on her medication, the woman embarked on a quest to have her baby daughter returned to her. But the Italian court said that “Since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her.” And a British judge declared that “He could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future.” The woman’s American ex-husband and father of her eldest daughter even tried to plead for the baby to be sent to his sister in Los Angeles, but because the baby isn’t a blood relation to her, the court struck that down too.

The woman’s lawyer, Brendan Fleming, told the Telegraph, “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job. I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.” And Liberal Democrat M.P. John Hemming, added, “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme. It involves the Court of Protection authorizing a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed.”

It seems crazy to me…but things are unreal in this world. (I will say for the record, women who refuse c-sections that eventually cause the death of their child…that is another matter. I do have problems with the women who do that. When cesareans become a necessary procedure, and the woman is determined to have a vaginal delivery at any cost, she is taking that “fucked up” ideology just as far as those fetus fanatics do…to the point beyond reason.)

Case in point: ACLU sues US bishops over Catholic hospital ethics

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sweeping federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over its ethical guidelines for Roman Catholic hospitals, arguing the directives were to blame for negligent care of a pregnant woman who went into early labor and whose baby died within hours.

The ACLU alleges the bishops were negligent because their religious directives prevented Tamesha Means from being told that continuing her pregnancy posed grave risks to her health and her child was not likely to survive. She was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital in Michigan.

“It’s not just about one woman,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU. “It’s about a nationwide policy created by nonmedical professionals putting patients in harms’ way.”

The lawsuit comes amid a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospital systems throughout the United States, raising questions about how much religious identity the hospitals will retain and whether they will provide medical services that conflict with church teaching. Advocates for abortion rights and others fear the mergers will limit access to a full range of medical care for women. About 13 percent of U.S. hospitals are Catholic.

It is a familiar story, we all know too well from personal experience what this woman went through…

According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Michigan, Means was 18 weeks pregnant in 2010 when her water broke and she went to the nearest hospital in Muskegon. The ACLU said that over several emergency visits, Means was never told that “the safest treatment option was to induce labor and terminate the pregnancy” because the hospital was following the conference’s ethical directives. She eventually delivered the baby, which died after less than three hours. The ACLU says the pathology report found that Means had infections that can result in infertility and other damage.

Under the conference’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” abortion is barred, along with other procedures that go against Catholic doctrine, such as specific infertility treatments or sterilization. However, each bishop has the authority to interpret the directives within his diocese and it is common to find some variation in how the guidelines are applied among dioceses or according to individual cases.

For example, the directives allow for treatments to cure a grave illness in a pregnant woman even if they result in the death of the child. That issue drew national attention in 2010 with the case of a nun and administrator at a Phoenix hospital who, in her role on the hospital ethics committee, approved an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted said the decision meant automatic excommunication for the nun and the hospital could no longer identify itself as Catholic.

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a University of Illinois professor who specializes in family and health law, said a negligence claim would hinge in part on whether the ACLU can establish that the conference has some direct control in this case or in hospitals in general. The bishops have moral authority over local Catholic hospitals but are not involved in the day-to-day business of administration.

“It’s so many layers removed,” Fretwell Wilson said, that she has “a difficult time buying” that the bishops’ conference is legally responsible in this case.

Sigh, well…I guess we just have to wait and see.

All this talk about the Pope and his new focus on the poor is great, but I still can’t fully get on board with Francis and his shitty attitude towards women. Then there is this crap too: Vatican refuses to share sex abuse investigations with U.N. panel | Reuters

The Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church’s internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying on Tuesday that its policy was to keep such cases confidential.

In response to a series of tough questions posed by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.

The response of the Holy See, which will be directly questioned by the panel in January 2014, will be closely watched as it tries to draw a line under financial scandals and abuse by priests that have damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis has largely succeeded in changing the subject after the resignation of Benedict XVI in February.

You bet your ass he has changed the subject!

The questions from the panel aimed to assess the Church’s adherence to the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty guaranteeing a full range of human rights for children which the Holy See has signed.

In its response the Vatican said internal disciplinary proceedings “are not open to the public” in order to protect “witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process”, but said this should not discourage victims from reporting crimes to state authorities.

However, it said state laws, including the obligation to report crimes, must be respected.

The Holy See noted it was “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and emphasized that it had changed the requirements for admitting candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops’ conferences to draw up guidelines to combat abuse.

But it indicated the Vatican could not be held responsible for the behavior of institutions or individual Catholics around the world and said local bishops had the responsibility of ensuring children were protected.

“The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world,” the response read, indicating the Catholic Church’s central administration could only be held accountable for events within the Vatican City State.

That makes me think of one thing:

Honestly. Maybe all this brouhaha over the Popes comments is nothing but smoke and mirrors? Get everyone distracted and flustered about one thing over here and they forget about priest molesting little boys over there.

Another news item that could use that Naked Gun clip as an afterthought, Radioactive Japanese Wave Nears U.S. : Discovery News

In the wake of the deadly tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and severely damaged a nuclear reactor, Japanese officials say the levels of radiation are safe for everyone outside the reactor area itself. But as radioactive water from the plant nears the West Coast of North America — the water is expected to hit in 2014 — can we be sure it’s safe?

The nuclear reactor continues to leak radioactive water due to poor management, while Japanese subcontractors at the plant have admitted they intentionally under-reported radiation and that dozens of farms around Fukushima that were initially deemed safe by the government actually had unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

Fukushima locals also claim they’re seeing cancer at higher rates and the Japanese government is covering up the scale of the problem.

I really don’t think we are getting all the story from Japan either.  The US EPA monitors Radiation levels around the US, you can see near real-time results here: RadNet | US EPA

The nationwide RadNet system monitors the nation’s air, drinking water, precipitation, and pasteurized milk to determine levels of radiation in the environment. RadNet sample analyses and monitoring results provide baseline data on background levels of radiation in the environment and can detect increased radiation from radiological incidents.

EPA’s RadNet Data | RadNet | US EPA

EPA’s nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, consists of two components. First, stationary and deployable air monitors measure radiation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The map below provides monitoring results as graphs that are updated several times daily. You can also search the RadNet database in EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to find monitoring data. Second, EPA samples precipitation, drinking water, and milk on a routine schedule and tests them for radiation in a laboratory. The latest RadNet sampling results are available in Envirofacts.

RadNet Data

Give that some of your time today, it is interesting indeed.

Y’all probably saw this crap yesterday: Zucker plans massive change at CNN | Capital New York

After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone.

So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”

Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”:

“We’re all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

Can you see where this is going?

Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

Hmmm, up next on CNN…

Moving on. Two quick links:

Photo-shopped picture falsely portrays Obama as child molester

Asshole actually tries to pass this shit off, and even the idiots who follow him on facebook call him out on it.

And check out The Very Best of ‘Right-Wing Art’ | Mediaite  

Oh, there are no words…

Did you see what happened in Iceland yesterday?

BBC News – Rare Iceland armed police operation leaves man dead

Icelandic police have shot dead a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment in the early hours of Monday.

It is the first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation in Iceland, officials say.

Wow, the first time?

I don’t know, but with all the shit going on around here, Iceland is looking pretty good.

That is all for me this morning, except for this last story…BBC News – Chess boxing catching on in India

Chess boxing
There are 300-odd chess boxers in India

Chess boxing, a hybrid sport combining the mental workout of chess with the physical challenge of boxing, is catching on in India, reports Shamik Bag.

Wearing boxing wraps around their palms and seated on a bench inside a gym in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, two players match moves while huddled over a chessboard.

Caught between the mind and muscle, the recently-introduced game of chess boxing is seeing an early surge of interest in India. The game involves alternate rounds of chess and boxing.

Now, that takes the whole hybrid sport thing to a new level doesn’t it? Forget kick-boxing, mixed-martial arts, wrestling stuff they do in world extreme cage fighting. This chess boxing takes brains! However, I don’t see it catching on here in the States. So don’t expect a reality show on chess boxing competitors to show up on CNN any time soon.  I bet we could come up with a catchy title though…”Left Rook and Check Mat.” (Maybe not.)

Have a great day!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I’ve got a mixed bag of reads for you this morning, so I hope there will be something her to interest you.

Did you see the piece in The New York Times on Obama’s “secret kill list?” Very creepy. The article makes it clear that President Obama is actively engaged in decisions about which “terrorists” to target with drone attacks.

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

At Slate, William Saletan breaks down the problems with the Times story and explains why the supposedly strict rules for choosing which people to target are really pretty meaningless.

To understand the Times story, you have to go back to a speech given last month by John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser. Brennan argued that the administration was waging drone warfare scrupulously. He described a rigorous vetting process. The Times report, quoting some officials and paraphrasing others, largely matches Brennan’s account. But on two key points, it undermines his story. The first point is target selection. Brennan asserted:

The president expects us to address all of the tough questions. … Is this individual a significant threat to U.S. interests? … Our commitment to upholding the ethics and efficacy of this counterterrorism tool continues even after we decide to pursue a specific terrorist in this way. For example, we only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing. This is a very high bar. … Our intelligence community has multiple ways to determine, with a high degree of confidence, that the individual being targeted is indeed the al-Qaida terrorist we are seeking.

The rules sound strict. But reread the fourth sentence: “We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing.” The phrase “against a specific individual” hides the loophole. Many drone strikes don’t target a specific individual. To these strikes, none of the vetting rules apply.

At Salon, Jefferson Morley explores the death of one little girl who was “collateral damage” in one of Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010.

Around midnight on May 21, 2010, a girl named Fatima was killed when a succession of U.S.-made Hellfire missiles, each of them five-feet long and traveling at close to 1,000 miles per hour, smashed a compound of houses in a mountain village of Mohammed Khel in North Waziristan along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Wounded in the explosions, which killed a half dozen men, Fatima and two other children were taken to a nearby hospital, where they died a few hours later.

Behram Noor, a Pakistani journalist, went to the hospital and took a picture of Fatima shortly before her death. Then, he went back to the scene of the explosions looking for evidence that might show who was responsible for the attack. In the rubble, he found a mechanism from a U.S.-made Hellfire missile and gave it to Reprieve, a British organization opposed to capital punishment, which shared photographs of the material with Salon. Reprieve executive director Clive Stafford Smith alluded to the missile fragments in an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times last fall. They have also been displayed in England.

“Forensically, it is important to show how the crime of murder happened (which is what it is here),” said Stafford Smith in an email. “One almost always uses the murder weapon in a case. But perhaps more important, I think this physical proof — this missile killed this child — is important to have people take it seriously.”

Tuna that is contaminated with Fukushima radiation has shown up in California.

Bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi turned up off the coast of California just five months after the Japanese nuclear plant suffered meltdown last March, US scientists said.

Tiny amounts of cesium-137 and cesium-134 were detected in 15 bluefin caught near San Diego in August last year, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels were 10 times higher than those found in tuna in the same area in previous years but still well below those that the Japanese and US governments consider a risk to health. Japan recently introduced a new safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram in food.

The timing of the discovery suggests that the fish, a prized but dangerously overfished delicacy in Japan, had carried the radioactive materials across the Pacific Ocean faster than those conveyed by wind or water.

There’s a new smartphone for those in Japan who want to know if they are in a “radiation hotspot.”

Mobile phone operator Softbank Corp said on Tuesday it would soon begin selling smartphones with radiation detectors, tapping into concerns that atomic hotspots remain along Japan’s eastern coast more than a year after the Fukushima crisis….

The smartphone in the company’s “Pantone” series will come in eight bright colors and include customized IC chips made by Sharp Corp that measure radiation levels in microsieverts per hour.

The phone, which goes on sale this summer, can also keep track of each location a user tests for radiation levels.

And get this– NASA says that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan “disturbed the upper atmosphere.”

The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima, Japan, last year wreaked havoc in the skies above as well, disturbing electrons in the upper atmosphere, NASA reported.

The waves of energy from the quake and tsunami that were so destructive on the ground reached into the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that stretches from about 50 to 500 miles (80 to 805 km) above Earth’s surface.

Greg Sargent discusses the surreal double-standard that Romney is using to compare his record in Massachusetts with Obama’s record as President.

You really couldn’t make this one up if you tried.

The Romney campaign is out with a new press release blasting Obama for presiding over a “net” loss in jobs. As I’ve been saying far too often, this metric is bogus, because it factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs the economy was hemorrhaging when Obama took office, before his policies took effect.

But this time, there’s an intriguing new twist in the Romney campaign’s argument.

In the same release attacking Obama over “net” job loss, the Romney camp also defends Romney’s jobs record as Governor of Massachusetts by pointing out … that Romney inherited a state economy that was losing jobs when he took office.

Seriously.

Check it out.

At Alternet, Steven Rosenfeld lists “five reasons the ‘Geezer Empire’ of Billionaire Republicans Are Showering Romney With Cash.” I’m can’t really excerpt this one. You need to go read the article for yourself.

The British supreme court found that Julian Assange must be extradited to Sweden, but in a surprise reversal, Assange has been given 14 days to “consider a challenge to the judgment.”

Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to Sweden may stagger on to a second round at the supreme court after he was granted permission to submit fresh arguments.

Despite losing by a majority of five to two, his lawyers have been given 14 days to consider whether to challenge a central point of the judgment on the correct interpretation of international treaties.

The highly unusual legal development came after the supreme court justices decided that a public prosecutor was a “judicial authority” and that therefore Assange’s arrest warrant had been lawfully issued.

Assange, who is wanted in connection with accusations of sexual assault and rape in Sweden, was not in court; there was no legal requirement for him to be present. According to his solicitor, Gareth Peirce, he was stuck in central London traffic and never made it to the court in Westminster. Assange denies the accusations.

At The Daily Beast, Malcolm Jones discusses how American culture has changed such that Bob Dylan has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jones points out that very few folk or rock musicians have been so honored. Certainly, Dylan is a “game changer”:

You don’t have to like or admire Dylan to admit that he was a game changer. He made folk music hip. He made rock lyrics literate or, put another way, he made his audience pay attention to lyrics because he made them mean something. He blew a hole in the notion that radio hits have to clock in at less than three minutes. He proved that you can stand on a stage with just a guitar and not much of a voice and hold people’s attention for, oh, about five decades. He wrote songs in his 20s that he can still sing today without a trace of embarrassment.

But he was once an “outsider.”

Dylan was distinctly an outsider, and there he remained for quite a while. It’s juvenile fun watching old press conferences when reporters did finally come calling later in the decade. The questions are so dorky. But what you realize is that the national press at that time had almost no one in its ranks that we would recognize as music writers. Most of the reporters sent to interview Dylan were 40-somethings in suits who treated him like Chubby Checker, just another flash in the pan phenom to be indulged. Instead, they found a musician who was the smartest man in any room, and someone who was more than happy to make fun of them (“You walk into the room, with your pencil in your hand …”).

The point is, in the mid-60s there really was an establishment and an anti-establishment (to be upgraded to a counterculture in a couple of years), and no one doubted which side of the line Dylan stood on. Back then, there were bitter fights over high culture and low, insiders and outsiders, and who got to say who was who. In 1965, the Pulitzer board refused to give a prize to Duke Ellington.

Over the years, all of that has more or less collapsed in on itself. Pulp fiction writers are in the American canon. Brian Wilson is understood to be a great American artist and not merely a great pop songwriter. The times did change, and Dylan was in the thick of making it happen.

But perhaps most telling is that Dylan is an old man now; his age is the one thing he has in common with others who have received the medal, but Jones says:

It’s cheap and easy to say that Dylan is now a member of the establishment. It’s also wrong, because there is no longer an establishment as we once knew it. And Dylan and his music had everything to do with that.

Interesting. So I’ll end with this:

What are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

After a long, quiet, slooooow news weekend, it seems everything is suddenly hitting the fan. A mysterious explosion in Iran–was it nukes? Are the reports propaganda designed to start another war? Time will tell, I guess. Then there is Herman Cain’s campaign blowing up in his face.

There is lots more news than I can cover in one post.

Speaking of the dangers of nuclear power, Think Progress reports this ghastly news from Japan:

Japan’s science ministry says 8 per cent of the country’s surface area has been contaminated by radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

It says more than 30,000 square kilometres of the country has been blanketed by radioactive cesium.

There’s a map of the contaminated areas at the link.

President Obama has promised to help out in the Eurozone mess.

As the European debt crisis continues to escalate, President Obama urged European Union leaders today to act quickly to resolve the eurozone crisis, saying that “the United States stands ready to do our part to help them resolve this issue.

“This is of huge importance to our own economy. If Europe is contracting or if Europe is having difficulties, then it’s much more difficult for us to create good jobs here at home because we send so many of our products and services to Europe; it is such an important trading partner for us,” the president said following an annual meeting between U.S. and EU officials. “We’ve got a stake in their success, and we will continue to work in a constructive way to try to resolve this issue in the near future.”

While Obama did not say what kind of assistance the U.S. would be willing to provide, earlier today the White House ruled out any financial contributions from U.S. taxpayers. “We do not in any way believe that additional resources are required from the United States or from American taxpayers,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

“This is a European issue, that Europe has the resources and capacity to deal with it and that they need to act decisively and conclusively to resolve this problem,” Carney said.

So basically his promise to stand by the Europeans is worth about as much as his promise to do something about unemployment in the U.S.

Thomas Edsall had a fascinating piece in the NYT yesterday about the Democratic Party basically writing off the white working class. I highly recommend reading it. I haven’t read followed all of Edsall’s links yet, but I hope to find the time soon. Here’s an excerpt:

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

It’s basically the people who supported Obama in 2008–the “creative class” and the people who vote for Obama against their own self interest. So where does that leave the unions and us older folks? Up sh*t creek, I guess. We need a third party then, because the Republicans don’t want us either. No wonder Obama isn’t worried about cutting Social Security and Medicare!

As a practical matter, the Obama campaign and, for the present, the Democratic Party, have laid to rest all consideration of reviving the coalition nurtured and cultivated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal Coalition — which included unions, city machines, blue-collar workers, farmers, blacks, people on relief, and generally non-affluent progressive intellectuals — had the advantage of economic coherence. It received support across the board from voters of all races and religions in the bottom half of the income distribution, the very coherence the current Democratic coalition lacks.

A top priority of the less affluent wing of today’s left alliance is the strengthening of the safety net, including health care, food stamps, infant nutrition and unemployment compensation. These voters generally take the brunt of recessions and are most in need of government assistance to survive. According to recent data from the Department of Agriculture, 45.8 million people, nearly 15 percent of the population, depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to meet their needs for food.

The better-off wing, in contrast, puts at the top of its political agenda a cluster of rights related to self-expression, the environment, demilitarization, and, importantly, freedom from repressive norms — governing both sexual behavior and women’s role in society — that are promoted by the conservative movement.

If you ask me, the Democrats aren’t doing much for either of those groups. We need another party!!

Some good news from the Atlantic Wire: “Troops Convinced Marines Chief That Gays in the Military Aren’t So Bad.”

Gen. James F. Amos, the head of the U.S. Marines who wasn’t too thrilled with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell being repealed in September, is thrilled today with how the lift on the ban of gays in the military has gone so far, reports the AP. Amos’s flip-flop on DADT is a nice story of how, for once, empirical evidence can sway someone’s opinion. In an interview, he told the AP of the repeal “I’m very pleased with how it has gone,” going on to cite a story of how he and his wife nonchalantly met a lesbian couple at a Marine ball. Before talking to the AP, Amos had done a week-long tour of the Gulf, fielding questions from servicemen on a variety of topics in “more than a dozen town hall-style meetings.” So how many times did gays in the military come up? Once:

On his final stop, in Bahrain on Sunday, one Marine broached the topic gently. He asked Amos whether he planned to change the Marines’ current policy of leaving it to the discretion of local commanders to determine how to handle complaints about derogatory “homosexual remarks or actions.” Amos said no.

An extremely minor procedural question. Not chest-thumping rancor Amos might have expected last December. According to the AP, he told Congress then:

Successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus on preparing units for combat.

Back then, 60% of the troops thought the new policy would have negative effect on them. But after the fact that perception seems to have changed.

Finally, Stalin’s daughter died yesterday in Wisconsin at age 85.

At her birth, on Feb. 28, 1926, she was named Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of the brutal Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. After he died in 1953, she took her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva. In 1970, after her defection and an American marriage, she became and remained Lana Peters.

Ms. Peters died of colon cancer on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the county’s corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, said on Monday. She was 85.

Her death, like the last years of her life, occurred away from public view. There were hints of it online and in Richland Center, the Wisconsin town in which she lived, though a local funeral home said to be handling the burial would not confirm the death. A county official in Wisconsin thought she might have died several months ago. Phone calls seeking information from a surviving daughter, Olga Peters, who now goes by the name Chrese Evans, were rebuffed, as were efforts to speak to her in person in Portland, Ore., where she lives and works.

Ms. Peters’s initial prominence came only from being Stalin’s daughter, a distinction that fed public curiosity about her life across three continents and many decades. She said she hated her past and felt like a slave to extraordinary circumstances. Yet she drew on that past, and the infamous Stalin name, in writing two best-selling autobiographies.

I’ll stop here, but there’s lots more happening. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Sunday Reads: Mad about the Boy and Sunflowers…Radioactive Sunflowers

Good Morning.

Last night I saw one of the best movies ever made, Sunset Blvd…and I have to say, like Norma Desmond…I am mad about the boy. The “boy” being William Holden.

Funny what you remember isn’t it

There was a song that was popular when I was in high school, I never liked it much but it was recorded live in Tom’s Diner…the same diner that was used for the street shots of Monk’s coffee shop on Seinfeld. This song’s lyrics mention the death of William Holden…

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

Oh, you can be sure I knew who Suzanne Vega was talking about…Damn, he was one hell of a leading man!

Anyway, on with the news reads for this morning.

Lee is on his way up to Banjoland, but now the rain is falling in New Orleans.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/storm_graphics/AT13/refresh/AL1311W5_NL_sm2+gif/204714W5_NL_sm.gif

This is one slow-moving storm…New Orleans feeling lucky, wary as storm nears land | Reuters

Southern Louisiana was coping fairly well with heavy rains from Tropical Storm Lee on Saturday but New Orleans officials warned residents against rising winds and complacency amid the storm’s slow onslaught.

“This storm is moving painfully slow,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a briefing on Saturday afternoon. “Don’t go to sleep on this storm,” he added. “The message today is that we are not out of the woods.”

Hope all is well Dak!

I have some interesting links for you today, we will start over in Japan. Remember that Fukushima Nuclear Plant?

Nuclear legacy: photos tell tale of 2 ghost towns  | ajc.com

Twenty-five years after a reactor at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded and melted down, its surroundings are well-explored territory, including the abandoned workers’ town of Pripyat, two kilometers (about a mile) from the plant. The guides who take visitors through the area know exactly where to go and, more important, what to avoid.

[…]

The people who fled Futaba, the town nearest to the Fukushima plant, need only look to Pripyat, some 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) away, for a hint of what it will probably turn into: a ghost town forever looking as though it expects its 7,000-plus people to return any minute.

In Futaba, unlike in Pripyat, you are in uncharted territory. There are no guides. The radioactive hot spots are uncharted, and behind every corner, danger may lurk that will not turn malignant for years, even decades. Radiation cannot be sensed like a hum or a smell. The sun shines and the wind blows, and only the beeping of your Geiger counter tells you something is wrong.

There are two images that I want to point out:

In this Thursday, April 21, 2011 photo, a dog walks across a street in the deserted town of Futaba, inside the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

In this Sunday, April 2, 2006 photo, a dog walks in the deserted town of Pripyat, Ukraine, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Well, those pictures say a hell of a lot…and so does this one:  Japan is open for business – The Washington Post

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES – Sunflowers are seen in the tsunami hit field in in Natori, in Miyagi prefecture, and were planted by local elementary school children on July 15, 2011. Japan has a campaign to grow sunflowers to help decontaminate radioactive soil.

Yes, Japan is planting sunflowers to help remove the cesium.  Sunflowers rise to battle Japan’s nuclear winter – Technology & science – Science – msnbc.com

About 80,000 people were forced to evacuate from a vast swath of land around the reactor as engineers battled radiation leaks, hydrogen explosions and overheating fuel rods. They have no idea when, if ever, they can return to homes that have been in their families for generations.

Worse still, radiation spread well outside the mandatory evacuation zone, nestling in “hot spots” and contaminating the ground in what remains a largely agricultural region.

Rice, still a significant staple, has not been planted in many areas. Others face stringent tests and potentially harmful shipping bans after radioactive caesium was found in rice straw.

Excessive radiation levels have also been found in beef, vegetables, milk, seafood and water. In hot spots more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the plant, the tea is radioactive.

Sunflower campaign
In an effort to lift the spirits of area residents as well as lighten the impact of the radiation, Abe began growing and distributing sunflowers and other plants.

“We plant sunflowers, field mustard, amaranthus and cockscomb, which are all believed to absorb radiation,” said the monk. “So far we have grown at least 200,000 flowers (at this temple) and distributed many more seeds. At least 8 million sunflowers blooming in Fukushima originated from here.”

Sunflowers were also used to clean up contaminated soil near Chernobyl.  Imagine, once the flowers grow they must be disposed of properly.  Yes, the big yellow flowers are radioactive… atomic… a sea of golden toxic waste!  Japanese Scientists Get Creative With Nuclear Contamination Clean-Up

Sunflowers near Chernobyl

After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, sunflowers and rape blossoms were used to decontaminate soil in Ukraine.

The researchers believe growing sunflowers will remove the radioactive caesium in the ground. Radioactive caesium is similar to kalium, a commonly used fertilizer. If kalium is not present, sunflowers will absorb caesium instead.

Yamashita’s team plans to remove the harvested sunflowers through burning, so that the radioactive caesium could be dispersed in smoke instead of requiring storage.

Alternatively, the researchers are also considering using hyperthermophilic aerobic bacteria to decompose the plants. The decomposing process will reduce the sunflowers to about 1 percent of their previous volume, which will slash the amount of radioactive waste that needs to be disposed.

As for the radiation that is seaborne, and not in the soil…Modelling the dispersion of Fukushima-Daichii nuclear power plant release (H/T Susie Madrak)

Take a look at that link, there are moving computer images of the dispersion of the radioactive plume as it traveled the Pacific currents away from Japan.

So, lets move from toxic radioactive particles to toxic radioactive candidates…GOP candidates that is.

Republican Candidates Turn Attacks on One Another – NYTimes.com

The Republican field is entering a pivotal stage in the nominating contest as candidates increasingly move beyond criticizing President Obama and start to run against one another.

The outcome of three debates in the next three weeks — starting Wednesday night, the first time Mr. Perry, Mr. Romney and Mrs. Bachmann will face one another — will influence fund-raising, shape strategy and set perceptions as the candidates hurtle toward the start of voting early next year.

In both parties, there is now a sense that the president’s political frailty, underscored by the report on Friday that showed zero net job creation in August and new projections that unemployment will remain elevated through Election Day next year, is even greater than it appeared at the start of the summer, injecting additional energy and urgency into the Republican primary race.

While many Democrats once hoped that perceived deficiencies among the Republican contenders could provide a lifeline to Mr. Obama, the prospect of losing the presidency is no longer summarily dismissed by his advisers.

In other words, they are going to “eat” their own kind in the next few weeks…should be some great fodder for the late night political comedians.

Early this week, this article was published on Colorlines.  The Definitive Guide to Bigotry in the 2012 Republican Primaries (So Far) – COLORLINES

There is a reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital. Stretched out between the memories of two presidents, the water reminds us that politics are merely a reflection of American society, for better or worse. The best of our society was on display 48 years ago when hundreds of thousands of Americans stood in scenic unity along the reflecting pool in support of civil rights. Today, the 2012 presidential elections reflect a nation still plagued by bias and inequality. Troubled and ugly waters indeed.

The following is a guide to use when you consider casting a vote for one of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates. You may be among the Americans who have lost faith in Obama or the Democratic Party and pondering a step to the right. Faulty as the Democrats may be, read this guide and remember that liberals still believe abolishing slavery was a good idea and that women should not be confined to the kitchen—which is not something you can say about all of the Republican contenders.

Check out this link, and read the entire article, because it breaks down the candidates and some of the questionable remarks that these 2012 GOP hopefuls have made. (Some will not come as a surprise to you, but Colorlines really does a great job of writing it down.)

From the bigoted remarks and beliefs to the religious fervor that most of the GOP 2012s are pimping left and right. This next article is from Time and discusses the Articles of Faith: What Journalists Should Be Asking Politicians About Religion | Swampland

A few weeks ago, I opened up my Twitter feed early in the morning and immediately wondered if I was being punk’d. Instead of the usual horse race speculation, my colleagues in the political press corps were discussing the writings of evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer and debating the definition of Dominionism. The same week, a conservative journalist had posed a question about submission theology in a GOP debate, and David Gregory had grilled Michele Bachmann about whether God would guide her decision-making if she became President.

The combination of religion and politics is a combustible one. And while I’m thrilled to see journalists taking on these topics, it seemed to me a few guidelines might be helpful in covering religion on the campaign trail:

Ask relevant questions.

It’s tempting to get into whether a Catholic candidate takes communion or if an evangelical politician actually thinks she speaks to God. But if a candidate brings up his faith on the campaign trail, there are two main questions journalists need to ask: 1) Would your religious beliefs have any bearing on the actions you would take in office? and 2) If so, how?

This is also a rather long article, and discusses the kinds of “faith” related questions the media needs to focus on.  From policy to Jeremiah Wright…so please read the entire article if you can.

From the Minx Missing Link File:  There was a plane crash this past week just off the coast in Chile…some of you may have missed this news. The plane crashed when extremely bad weather hit the area. Chile says no survivors from Pacific Ocean air crash | Reuters

“One arrives at the conclusion that the impact was so strong that it must have killed those aboard instantly,” Defense Minister Andres Allamand said.

The CASA 212 military plane tried twice to land on Friday before it went missing as heavy winds and sporadic rains hit the area.

Among the passengers were five TVN national television staff members, including well-known presenter Felipe Camiroaga, who were planning to film a report about reconstruction on the islands after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The islands were badly hit by the tsunami.

21 people were aboard that plane, all are presumed dead.

Friday there was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that hit in Argentina and a 6.8 earthquake the struck off the Fox Islands, in the Aleutian chain of islands in Alaska. Mother nature has been on the rampage lately.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  This is one cool looking Woolly Rhino, isn’t it? BBC News – ‘Oldest’ woolly rhino discovered

Woolly rhino impression (Julie Naylor) The discovery team says it might have used its horn as a paddle to sweep snow from vegetation

As a fiber nut, the first thing I thought about when I saw that picture was…ooo, I bet that spins up like yak or maybe Icelandic fleece, one of the primitive sheep whose fleece has a dual coat. One layer is guard hair, straight and more “hairy” like, it makes a very strong and stable yarn…great for use as warps in weaving and the lower woolly fleece, that is soft and wavy, with lots of loft and crimp, that makes a great flexible yarn because it has more “give” for knitting and use as weft in weaving.

A woolly rhino fossil dug up on the Tibetan Plateau is believed to be the oldest specimen of its kind yet found.

The creature lived some 3.6 million years ago – long before similar beasts roamed northern Asia and Europe in the ice ages that gripped those regions.

The discovery team says the existence of this ancient rhino supports the idea that the frosty Tibetan foothills of the Himalayas were the evolutionary cradle for these later animals.

The report appears in Science journal.

“It is the oldest specimen discovered so far,” said Xiaoming Wang from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, US.

“It is at least a million years older, or more, than any other woolly rhinos we have known.
“It’s quite well preserved – just a little crushed, so not quite in the original shape; but the complete skull and lower jaw are preserved,” he told BBC News.

Well, that is all for me this morning. Enjoy your first Sunday in September, and I will catch you all later in the comments.


Wednesday Reads: Radiation, Abortion Rights and Whitey Bulger RICO…Suave

Good Wednesday Morning! Lots of stuff going on this week, so let’s have at it!

There are some updates about Whitey Bulger being reported in the NYT.  Some Charges May Be Dropped in Bulger Case as Prosecutors Focus on Killings – NYTimes.com

The federal government moved on Tuesday to drop a racketeering case against the longtime fugitive James (Whitey) Bulger, saying it wanted to focus on a separate case that charges him with 19 murders, among other crimes.

But Judge Mark L. Wolf of Federal District Court said he would not immediately allow the dismissal, in part because Mr. Bulger needed time to confer with his lawyer about it.

In seeking to drop the 1994 racketeering case against Mr. Bulger, federal prosecutors said they wanted to focus on getting justice for the murder victims. The evidence against Mr. Bulger is stronger in the murder case, they said, and the penalties are steeper if convicted. A conviction on a single murder charge could send Mr. Bulger, 81, to prison for the rest of his life.

I am glad the prosecutors want to focus on the murder victims…all nineteen (19) of them. Ten of the murder charges stem from  murders Bulger commented while he was an informant for the FBI.  The article quotes Dick Lehr, a Boston University Professor as saying,

“There’s no question that that one is the big enchilada,” he said. “Racketeering cases by their nature are so huge and complicated. Why not tidy up and go full bore on the big one?”

Makes sense to me…but there could be other reasons for dropping the RICO charges.

Peter Krupp, Mr. Bulger’s temporary lawyer, said in a hearing Tuesday that the government appeared to be trying to avoid dealing with Judge Wolf, who presides over the 1994 racketeering case. Judge Richard Stearns of Federal District Court is in charge of the murder case.

Judge Wolf, the chief judge of the district, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bulger cases and has a reputation for being “brilliant but overbearing,” Mr. Lehr said. The judge scheduled another hearing for Thursday on whether the 1994 case should be dropped. Judge Wolf has also not yet decided whether Mr. Bulger is eligible for a free, court-appointed lawyer.

With all the talk of the Casey Anthony trial, the Bulger trial is one I would love to see.  (Anyone looking for another perspective of the CMA trial, check this out: Women in Crime Ink: Trials: Truth, Expectation and Reality )

There is a new article and video up at CBS News that interviews a resident of Fukushima about her concerns about radiation and her children. Japan’s radiation dilemma: Leave or live in fear – CBS News

For ten years, Akiko Murakami has lived a suburban dream — growing flowers, as she raised four sons, in a leafy corner of Fukushima city. But now she wonders if it’s safe to stay here. CBS News reporter Lucy Craft brought a Geiger counter, which measures radiation, to her house.

The home she and her husband built for their kids, ages 12 to 21, is surrounded by pockets of radiation — known as hotspots.

Fukushima is a city of 300,000 people, and I guess it is just too many people to evacuate. (Bit of snark there.)

The government has lowered radiation exposure standards in the Fukushima region to 20 millisieverts a year. That’s about the same amount as 50 mammograms. Fukushima City is 40 miles from the nuclear plant, the source of the radiation, but Japan is telling its residents that there’s no additional risk. Many international experts and even the prime minister’s own nuclear advisor disagree. They claim that Fukushima is no longer safe – particularly for children.

Fukushima children to receive radiation meters

Residents travelled to Tokyo to protest after the government loosened safety limits — despite the fact that the long-term impact of low-dose radiation is unknown.

I am no doctor or radiation expert, but 50 mammograms seems like a lot of x-ray exposure to me. Murakiami says that her biggest fear is her children’s health, no doubt she is just one of the many families facing the same decision. Stay or go…I say, get the hell out if you can.

Oh, and while many of you have those 50 “tata” mammograms a year in your minds, lets move on to yet another fight that Breast Cancer victims must face…Breast Cancer Patients Fight for Avastin, a Breast Cancer Drug – ABC News

Priscilla Howard, who has metastatic breast cancer, has been taking the drug Avastin for a little more than two years and has seen a remarkable difference in the progression of her disease, she told a panel of experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the first day of a two-day hearing that pits the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research against Genentech, Avastin’s manufacturer.

“I am progression free but not cancer free,” said Howard, one of a handful of Avastin patients who gathered both inside and outside the FDA to fight for keeping Avastin on the market.

“I want every available weapon in my arsenal as I fight this devastating disease,” Howard told the panel. The hearing will ultimately decide the fate of what some patients consider a lifesaving drug.

The FDA could take Avastin off the list of approved medications for cancer patients, which

Some cancer specialists said the decision could hold huge implications for the way their patients will be treated.

“This decision [could] remove an option for patients,” said Dr. Edith Perez, clinical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic.

American Cancer Society’s deputy medical officer Dr. Len Lichtenfeld attended the hearing and tweeted “No one has asked the question: What do we say to all the patients and families who testified this morning?”

I am thinking that one of the reasons the FDA wants to withdraw the use of Avastin may have something to do with the cost of Avastin. As this article from the New York Times in 2008 states:  The Evidence Gap – In Cost Cancer Drug Avastin, Hope and a Dilemma – Series – NYTimes.com

…some in the pharmaceutical industry worry that such prices will raise concerns about whether the drugs are worth it, leading to a backlash like price controls or restrictions on use.

Roy Vagelos, a former chief executive of Merck who is considered an elder statesman of the industry, said in a recent speech that he was troubled by a drug, which he would not name but which was a clear reference to Avastin, that costs $50,000 a year and adds four months of life. “There is a shocking disparity between value and price,” he said, “and it’s not sustainable.”

You thinking what I am thinking…screw the women that may get extra time on this earth to live their lives, cause it cost too damn much.

And on that note, I want to give you a link from the state of Kansas on the continued war against women.  Second abortion lawsuit filed in Kansas | CJOnline.com

The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted to federal district court in Kansas City, Kan., a challenge to abortion clinic licensing regulations adopted by the 2011 Legislature and signed into law by anti-abortion Gov. Sam Brownback.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Center for Women’s Health, which has been operated in Overland Park by physicians Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser.

“Between the rigid and unnecessary building standards and the absurd deadlines, this licensing process is a complete sham,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Our clients have a long record of providing safe and high-quality OB/GYN care, including abortion services, to women over the last 30 years,” she said. “These regulations have nothing to do with safety standards and everything to do with an aggressive anti-choice government trying to shut down abortion providers.”

And BTW, the article points out that if these three clinics are denied licenses, Kansas will be the first state, “not to have abortion services on demand.”

Let’s end with an article about Hillary Clinton Chides Male Domination of African Union – Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton’s speech was met with silence from the male-dominated envoys at the African Union as she criticized the continents aging autocrats. The mood changed when the U.S. Secretary of State turned her attention to women.

“The women of Africa are the hardest working women in the world,” said Clinton, addressing the 53-nation body in Addis Ababa on June 13. Interrupted by loud cheers from the visitors’ area in the upper gallery in the back of the hall, she exclaimed: “If all the women in Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, decided they would stop working for a week, the economies of Africa would collapse.”

If African women were given equal access as men to vocational training and technology, the continent’s economy would expand by at least 40 percent, according Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The disparities are most evident in agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of employment and 30 percent of the gross domestic product of sub-Saharan Africa. About 100 million women in Africa use only rudimentary farm tools. That limits them to cultivating at most an hectare (2.5 acres) of land, which they spend almost 2,000 hours a year weeding.

Damn, I appreciate this woman so much…

For Clinton, the plight of women has helped drive an aggressive travel schedule that her office says has clocked up more miles than any of her predecessors. She’s gone 567,305 miles, visiting 85 countries in 232 days on the road since taking office in January 2009. She makes it a point to meet local women in impoverished nations.

And the Bloomberg article ends with this, Wonk take notice…cause it is something you have mentioned many times:

Women’s rights have been the defining issue for Clinton, from her time in Arkansas to the empowered wife of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s to senator for New York and finally the face of American diplomacy.

As first lady she traveled to China in 1995 to attend the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women and defied Chinese authorities by refusing to tone down a speech that state radio and television blacked out.

“It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” she told 180 delegates from the podium. “Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.”

As she prepares to leave office next year, Clinton has given a glimpse of where her future lies.

Which all of us here at Sky Dancing believe is a return to advocating for the rights of women and children…and geez, we need her fighting for us…big time!

So what are you reading and blogging about today? Get busy in the comment section!

And for those of you who have the song Rico Suave running through your head, I apologize…for those of you who don’t remember this tune, this video is for you:


Open Thread: Inside Japan’s Evacuation Zone

Via Raw Story, see what it’s really like inside Japan’s evacuation zone–empty streets, abandoned houses, ruined roads from the earthquake, packs of dogs and livestock roaming free–it’s like something out of a science fiction movie.

Japanese journalist Tetsuo Jimbo made a trip inside the restricted evacuation zone near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant last week. At 17 km from the plant (about 2 minutes into the video), the Geiger counter alarms go off and remain on for the rest of the trip….

Jimbo terminates the mission at about 1.5 km from the nuclear plant, where radiation is thousands of times above normal.

Watch the video:

See dramatic photos at Buzzfeed


Japanese Officials Admit They Are Making No Progress

Chernobyl disaster: will it happen again?

The Guardian reports that radiation levels are rising in the ocean near the Fukushima nuclear plant, and Japanese officials admit they basically have no real solution for the apparent meltdown and/or meltdowns of the four damaged nuclear reactors.

The country’s nuclear and industrial safety agency, Nisa, said radioactive iodine-131 at 3,355 times the legal limit had been identified in the sea about 300 yards south of the plant, although officials have yet to determine how it got there.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nisa spokesman, said fishing had stopped in the area, adding that the contamination posed no immediate threat to humans. “We will find out how it happened and do our utmost to prevent it from rising,” he said.

Good luck with that. The battle to control the reactors could go on for years.

The battle to control the slow-motion meldowns could take years, according to this Reuters article.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

“Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over),” TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

Back to the Guardian piece:

Robert Peter Gale, a US medical researcher who was brought in by Soviet authorities after the Chernobyl disaster, said recent higher readings of radioactive iodine-131 and caesium-137 should be of greater concern than reports earlier this week of tiny quantities of plutonium found in soil samples.

But he added: “It’s obviously alarming when you talk about radiation, but if you have radiation in non-gas form I would say dump it in the ocean.”

Wonderful. The Japanese eat a lot of fish, don’t they?

From ABC News

Radiation measured at a village 40 kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear plant now exceeds a criterion for evacuation, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

And a Japanese nuclear expert has warned crews may have to keep pouring cooling water onto the stricken reactors for years.

Years. That is what multiple sources are now saying. It could take years. So how does it end? We hope for new discoveries that will solve the problem, while the reactors continue to melt down and release radioactive elements into the groundwater and the ocean? Or there is a catastrophic explosion?

Yes, I know the “experts” say that won’t happen, but if workers are going to be struggling with these plants for years, there is inevitably going to be human error. Besides, the “experts” have tried to minimize the dangers all along. Only now is the real truth beginning to come out.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists All Things Nuclear blog:

Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.

The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.

Thus, it is now abundantly clear that Japanese authorities were negligent in restricting the emergency evacuation zone to only 20 kilometers from the release site.

This is bad, folks. Here is a summary of the health effects of cesium-137:

Like all radionuclides, exposure to radiation from cesium-137 results in increased risk of cancer.

Everyone is exposed to very small amounts of cesium-137 in soil and water as a result of atmospheric fallout. Exposure to waste materials, from contaminated sites, or from nuclear accidents can result in cancer risks much higher than typical environmental exposures.

If exposures are very high, serious burns, and even death, can result. Instances of such exposure are very rare. One example of a high-exposure situation would be the mishandling a strong industrial cesium-137 source. The magnitude of the health risk depends on exposure conditions. These include such factors as strength of the source, length of exposure, distance from the source, and whether there was shielding between you and the source (such as metal plating).

Please note that cesium-137, like plutonium doesn’t occur naturally in the environment. When officials and “experts” talk about “background” radiation, they are talking about elements that have been introduced through nuclear tests and nuclear reactor accidents and bi-products. This “background” radiation wasn’t around before the nuclear age, and I personally don’t believe that it has no effect on us.

From NPR: More radioactive material has been found in foods in Japan.

Yesterday, I asked in a comment what is being done with all the contaminated water that is being removed from the Fukushima reactors. Scarecrow addressed this question today at FDL.

They’ve got hundreds of tons of contaminated water preventing workers from getting close enough to pumps, valves, monitors needed to stabilize conditions. So they have to pump this water out and put it somewhere, but where? There are tanks at/near some units that can hold some of it, but not all, and external temporary storage may allow exposure to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, they must keep pumping more fresh water into the reactors and spent fuel storage pools, while more leaks out.

There are large pools of dangerously contaminated water in the turbine buildings adjacent to each reactor buidling, with more leaking in from somewhere, and few places to put it. Just outside the turbine buildings, there are long, deep trenches nearer the ocean and likely filled with water from the tsunami. But they’re now contaminated with radiation and water leaks from the turbine building.

Where can they put all this water? And given varying degrees of contamination, which water should they put where? For example, should they just pump out the least radioactive water in the trenches/pools and dump it in the ocean?

Believe it or not, some people are suggesting putting the water in large ships and letting them float around in the ocean. And what happens if there is a huge storm and the ships are damaged? Honestly, this gets scarier and scarier every day.

Even worse, today smoke was seen at another nuclear plant owned by Tepco!

The company said smoke was detected in the turbine building of reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant around 6 p.m. (5 a.m. ET).

Smoke could no longer be seen by around 7 p.m. (6 a.m. ET), a company spokesman told reporters.

The Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers have been scrambling to stave off a meltdown since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems there….

After the dual disasters, Japanese authorities also detected cooling-system problems at the Fukushima Daini plant, and those living within a 10-kilometer radius (6 miles) of Fukushima Daini were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

What next? Something tells me whatever happens next won’t be good.