Tuesday Reads: The GOP Clown Car

clown car via crooks and liars

Good Morning!!

In this today’s Washington Post, Dana Millbank belatedly latches onto a very old meme–The Republican field is a clown car–in order to promote one of the clowns.

“If you can’t take a joke,” Lindsey Graham has said , “don’t run for president.”

Graham, a senator from South Carolina and one of umpteen Republicans running for president, can take a joke — which is why he appreciates the absurdity that is the GOP field. There are far too many candidates (so many that there are concerns they won’t all fit on a debate stage), and to gain attention they are juggling, tooting horns and blowing slide whistles like so many painted performers emerging from a clown car.

“I do bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings, funerals — call me, I’ll come,” Graham told a crowd in New Hampshire last month. He said voters should ignore Hillary Clinton and “look to the 35 people running for president on the Republican side. And just shoot up among us until you get one of us out of the tree.”

But what if you are the joke? Just think, Graham could be the first obviously closeted gay man to win the nomination of the party that hates gays and wants them to be second class citizens.

Ted Cruz tried for his 15 minutes of fame by holding the first announcement. Marco Rubio drew thousands to Miami’s Freedom Tower. Mike Huckabee brought in aging crooner Tony Orlando but was easily eclipsed by Ben Carson, who had a musical extravaganza and a video putting the candidate in the company of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

Former New York governor George Pataki, perhaps the smallest of the GOP Lilliputians, announced on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week that . . . he will make his announcement on May 28. Donald Trump announced over the weekend that he would make an announcement in June and that “the announcement is going to surprise a lot of people.”

It would probably surprise a lot of people if Trump said something that made sense.

clown-car

Sigh . . . .

Also in this morning’s WaPo, Bobby Jindal hints that he too will have an important announcement soon: Bobby Jindal launches presidential exploratory committee.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Monday formally launched a presidential exploratory committee, the clearest indication yet that he is gearing up for a White House run.

“For some time now, my wife Supriya and I have been thinking and praying about whether to run for the Presidency of our great nation,” Jindal said in a statement. “If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction. Not a course correction, but a dramatically different path.”

The Louisiana Republican has made frequent visits to key early voting states in recent months, testing a message centered on the need to “restore the American Dream,” which he says President Obama’s “weak leadership” has diminished. But despite his experience as governor and a compelling personal background as the American-born son of Indian immigrants, Jindal has struggled to make an impact in national polls of potential Republican candidates.

If Jindal does anything “dramatically different,” I’d be stunned. But he’ll just be peddling the usual Koch brothers gibberish to very small audiences.

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What are the other clown car occupants up to?

Rick Sanatorum has been busy either grossly misinterpreting or blatantly lying about a book he supposedly read.

Buzzfeed: Harvard Professor: Rick Santorum Is Misusing My Book To Say “All Black Men Are Sexual Predators.”

Last week, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum called men who father children with multiple women “sexual predators.”

When making his argument to the socially-conservative Cornerstone organization in New Hampshire, Santorum cited statistics on marriage from Harvard professor Robert Putnam’s book, Our Kids.

“Another new statistic just came out in his book. A majority of children being born out of wedlock today in America are born in families where the father is in the home. But they’re not married,” said Santorum. “So they are born to cohabiting couples. So the majority of children born out of wedlock are born to cohabiting couples. And what does Putnam say about these? They stuck to them longitudinally, they never get married. Let me use that term, never, like one or two percent ever get married.

“And he compared it when he was growing up in the 1950s and when children were conceived out of wedlock, what happened in the 1950s,” added Santorum. “We all know what happened in the 1950s and here is the amazing thing, this is Putnam saying this, 80 plus percent of these marriages succeeded.

“And children were raised in stable homes. Now these fathers leave the home and not just father children with that particular women, they father a child with another women, and another and another. We have created predators, sexual predators particularly where, again, Putnam—low income America.”

Voters will spend the next year trying to figure out the different shades of the GOP presidential candidates.

Voters will spend the next year trying to figure out the different shades of the GOP presidential candidates.

Here’s what Putnam had to say about Santorum’s comments.

“I’m a progressive and I think the evidence is that first of all, there has been a collapse in the working family class family, black and white, and that’s bad for kids,” Putnam said responding to Santorum in a speech to promote his book last week.

Putnam said Santorum misinterpreted what he was saying and took advantage of “the fact I was trying to be open.”

“But there is a presidential candidate, who yesterday quoted me as saying therefore—he’s quoted me as saying all black men are sexual predators. I’m not going to say who it is but what I’m trying to say is, he’s a conservative and he took what I was saying and sort of so misinterpreted it that it’s nothing like—it’s just isn’t even in the universe of what I said. But that’s an example of how at least this one guy was in effect taking advantage of the fact that I was trying to be open. He says ‘isn’t it amazing that this liberal’, actually he said ‘this extreme leftist at Harvard acknowledges that blah, blah, blah.’”

Another clown car occupant, Rand Paul wants to eliminate the Department of Education (Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee do too). Think Progress explains: What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education. According to TP,

We wouldn’t have a federal department to administer Pell Grants to students….

There wouldn’t be any oversight over states when they break civil rights laws….

There wouldn’t be a department to check on rampant inequality between low-income school districts and wealthy districts.

We would have inconsistent education data, as the quality of data would vary among the states….

There would be more gender discrimination within schools….

There would be no way to hold schools accountable for the funds they receive.

Of course for the GOP clowns, those are goals that should be wholeheartedly supported.

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Jeb Bush stumbled out the block and has continued to stumble and stagger on his path to an as-yet unannounced presidential candidacy. Here’s the latest from Reuters, via Yahoo News: Jeb Bush sees no constitutional right to gay marriage.

(Reuters) – Republican Jeb Bush said in a weekend radio interview that he does not believe the Constitution grants a right to gay marriage, emphasizing his support for “traditional marriage.”

The Supreme Court is expected by the end of June to make a landmark ruling that could make gay marriage the law of the land or return the decision to individual states.

“It’s at the core of the Catholic faith and to imagine how we are going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, (a) committed child-centered family system, is hard to imagine,” Bush told the Christian Broadcasting Network show, “The Brody File, in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“So, irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling because they are going to decide whatever they decide – I don’t know what they are going to do – we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage,” said Bush, who converted to Catholicism 20 years ago….

Bush also said in the radio interview that Christian business owners should be able to refuse, “if it’s based on a religious belief,” to provide services to same-sex couples.

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But at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern notes that: Jeb Bush Accidentally Made a Brilliant Argument Against Anti-Gay “Religious Liberty” Laws.

Jeb Bush has an odd conception of liberty. As governor of Florida, Bush strongly opposed same-sex marriage, preferring to force committed gay couples to live as legal strangers with no ability to formally adopt their own children. As his presidential campaign warms up, though, Bush has taken a selectively expansive view of liberty.According to Bush, anti-gay business owners should have a legal right to refuse service to same-sex couples seeking to celebrate their relationship.

Bush’s support for anti-gay “religious liberty” laws are no surprise—unless you happen to have believed that silly BuzzFeed report that he would be “2016’s gay-friendly Republican.” What is surprising is that Bush framed his endorsement of such laws in a way that beautifully illustrates exactly why the usual argument for such laws is so fatuous. Take a look at his comment:

A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs. This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.

At bottom, Bush is arguing that the law should differentiate between identity and conduct. He believes the state may protect gays from discrimination because they’re gay (identity), but not because they’re celebrating a gay relationship (conduct). Unfortunately for Bush, this argument fails quite spectacularly in the wedding context, because homosexuality is an identity defined by its conduct. To be gay is to be attracted to, and maybe marry, someone of the same sex. There is no more fundamental way to discriminate against a gay person than to refuse to serve them based on the fact that they are marrying someone of the same sex.

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Koch brothers favorite Scott Walker is having some not-so-funny (from his point of view) problems. He has been a target of corruption investigations for the past couple of years. Now this from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Records indicate Scott Walker was copied on letter promising loan to donor.

Madison — State records say that Gov. Scott Walker received a copy of a 2011 letter pledging a $500,000 taxpayer loan to a now-defunct Milwaukee construction company headed by a Walker donor, seemingly contradicting statements by the governor and his aides that he was not aware of the award.

A spokeswoman for Walker said that, in spite of the records, a copy of the letter from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. was never delivered to the governor’s office.

The Sept. 9, 2011, letter from Paul Jadin, WEDC’s chief executive officer at the time, was sent to William Minahan, owner of Building Committee Inc., a company that is now being sued by WEDC for defaulting on the unsecured loan without delivering the promised project and the jobs it was supposed to create.

Jadin said in his letter of intent that he was writing “on behalf of Governor Scott Walker” and noted “cc: Scott Walker, Governor” at the bottom.

Walker’s top cabinet appointee, then Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, urged WEDC officials to provide the loan, and Walker’s then-chief of staff Keith Gilkes attended an initial meeting on it, according to records provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the Walker administration.

“In closing Governor Walker and I are firmly committed to doing everything possible to expedite the processing and awarding of this incentive award,” Jadin wrote in the letter.

Read the details at the link.

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And from the La Crosse Tribune: Hours after damning audit, Scott Walker calls off WEDC-WHEDA merger.

Gov. Scott Walker has cancelled a planned merger of two economic development agencies after a new audit said Walker’s job-creating entity failed to follow statutes or its own policies when making financial awards.

The audit released Friday also says the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. failed to meet all statutory requirements related to program oversight and that staff “did not consistently comply with policies established by WEDC’s own governing board” which is chaired by Walker.

The audit comes as Walker had been calling for a merger of WEDC and WHEDA, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

Within hours of the audit release, Walker issued a statement calling for that merger to be removed from the state budget along with a merger of two other state agencies.

“After hearing concerns from legislators, stakeholders, and the WHEDA and WEDC boards, we asked legislators to remove the proposed agency mergers from the state budget and we asked the bill authors to not move forward with the proposed separate legislation,” Walker said.

Walker also had proposed a merger of the Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Safety and Professional Services into one regulatory agency. That merger is also cancelled, he said.

Wisconsin Democrats are gloating . . .

“While Scott Walker has completely abandoned Wisconsin to advance his presidential ambitions the continued incompetence and ineptitude at his Economic Disaster Corporation is bordering on criminal negligence at this point,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in a statement.

Meanwhile, wicked witch Hillary Clinton and her husband (who is a different person) got paid a lot of money for making speeches. Horrors!

 That’s all the clown car news I have room for today. What else is happening?


Friday Reads: A Sign of the Overlord Apocalypse

Good Morning!old store

It’s been since at least November since I’ve had some time to myself when I wasn’t completely in need of tons of sleep so I’m enjoying spending some time in bed with my feet up getting my reads on.  There’s not been a lot that’s intrigued me but it beats designing and updating an on line International Finance Class, believe me.  So, imagine my sheer joy when I found out that Walmart broke down and upped its wages.

There are several reasons the America’s #1 corporation and chain store made the leap.  It was probably a combination of fear of unionization and the incredible employee turnover rate.  It really costs to hire and train new workers so upping the salary is really the required move for that one.  There’s a lot of analysis on the deed so I’d thought I’d take a look at it.  First up, Joe Pinsker at The Atlantic discusses the move.

The CEO of Walmart announced earlier today that all of the company’s employees will, starting in April, be paid at least $9 an hour, nearly $2 more than the federal minimum wage. That’s still far short of the $15 per hour pushed for by OUR Walmart, a union-like group of Walmart workers. Still, it’s a change for a company that has stubbornly opposed such a raise for years.

Walmart’s CEO framed the raise as an act of corporate benevolence, but the reason his company will inch closer to paying all its employees fair wages has little to do with goodwill (few business decisions do). If Walmart has determined that it’ll need to start paying higher wages to stay competitive, then other retailers might arrive at the same conclusion. This isn’t an isolated act of corporate social responsibility—it’s a response to the current realities of labor economics that will likely inform the behavior of other American employers.

1922_Detroit_storeThis is a pretty good sign that the economy is doing well enough that workers are beginning to be able to trade up to better jobs.  It’s the best sign that I’ve seen yet that the economy has really started to recover from the financial crisis. 

Some companies have set even higher wage floors more in line with living wage expectations. Most recently, for example, Aetna set its floor for US workers at $16 an hour, twice the current federal minimum wage.

Higher wages are exactly what the financial doctors have ordered to cure America’s ailing economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, it would take a wage growth of at least 3.5% to 4% for workers to feel the impact of the recovery. In 2014, the average hourly pay went up by just 1.7%.

“Raising wages among low-wage workers shifts income into the pockets of workers and families that are highly likely to quickly spend every additional dollar they earn,” says David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

“So even though some businesses have to pay their workers more, they see more customers coming through the door because now there’s additional dollars rippling out through local economies in a way that doesn’t really happen if those dollars just go back into the bank accounts of corporate shareholders.”

It’s taken awhile for the plight of low income workers to attract any kind of attention from decision makers despite the huge amount of media attention focused on income inequality and the general lack of demand at stores that cater to the majority of Americans.  Sooner or later, something had to give.  It certainly wasn’t going to be any Republican-led legislature.

So what has changed? The simple answer is that the world for employers is very different with a 5.7 percent unemployment rate (the January level) than it was five years ago, at 9.8 percent. Finding qualified workers is harder for employers now than it was then, and their workers are at risk of jumping ship if they don’t receive pay increases or other improvements. Apart from pay, Walmart executives said in their conference call with reporters that they were revising their employee scheduling policies so that workers could have more predictability in their work schedules and more easily get time off when they needed it, such as for a doctor’s appointment.

The giant question now is not whether there will be some meaningful wage gains in 2015; beyond the anecdotal evidence from Walmart and Aetna, the collapse in oil prices means even modest pay increases will translate into quite large inflation-adjusted raises. The question is whether wage gains will be strong enough to create a virtuous cycle in which rising pay for the workers at the bottom three-quarters of the income scale, who are most likely to spend the money and get it circulating through the economy, will spur more investment and hiring.

To the degree their logic was, “We think we’re going to need to raise wages this much in the next couple of years anyway to retain good workers and maximize profitability, so we may as well get ahead of the curve and get a public relations bump out of it and announce the plans in a big splashy way,” that would be the best news for American workers. Because that would imply that it won’t just be Walmart workers getting a raise in 2015.

Other news this week is not as good.  We continue to see people justify their bigotry through religious beliefs. Judges around the country aren’t buying it but the justification is popping up in some really odd places including a pediatrician who wouldn’t accept a 6 day old as a patient because her parents are lesbians. 160376_large

Sitting in the pediatrician’s office with their 6-day-old daughter, the two moms couldn’t wait to meet the doctor they had picked out months before.

The Roseville pediatrician — one of many they had interviewed — seemed the perfect fit: She took a holistic approach to treating children. She used natural oils and probiotics. And she knew they were lesbians.

But as Jami and Krista Contreras sat in the exam room, waiting to be seen for their newborn’s first checkup, another pediatrician entered the room and delivered a major blow: The doctor they were hoping for had a change of heart. After “much prayer,” she decided that she couldn’t treat their baby because they are lesbians.

Doctor’s letter: Why she wouldn’t care for baby with 2 moms

“I was completely dumbfounded,” recalled Krista Contreras, the baby’s biological mother. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Did we hear that correctly?’ …. When we tell people about it, they don’t believe us. They say, ‘(Doctors) can’t do that. That’s not legal.’ And we say, ‘Yes it is.'”

The Contrerases of Oak Park are going public with their story to raise awareness about the discrimination that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continues to face. There is no federal or Michigan law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals.

For months, the couple kept quiet about what happened to them and their baby — Bay Windsor Contreras — at Eastlake Pediatrics last October.

But the pain and frustration wouldn’t go away. So they broke their silence.

“We want people to know that this is happening to families. This is really happening,” said Jami Contreras, 30, who was blindsided that fall day in the doctor’s office. “It was embarrassing. It was humiliating … It’s just wrong.”

Old shops and stores in N.J (10)A judge in Washington state has made a meaningful decision on a Florist that refused service to a gay couple seeking flowers for their wedding.  The bottom line is that religion is not an excuse to refuse public accommodation under the law.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, he said.

“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” Ekstrom wrote. “The Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”

Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, sold flowers for years to customer Robert Ingersoll. She knew he was gay and that the flowers were for his partner, Curt Freed.

After Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, Ingersoll went to the shop the following spring to ask Stutzman to do the flowers for his wedding. At the time, floral arrangements for weddings made up about 3 percent of her business.

She placed her hands on his and told him she couldn’t, “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said in a deposition. As a Southern Baptist, she believed only in opposite-sex marriages.

046618-unley-supermarket-grocery-storePeople use just about anything to justify bigotry but religion seems to be a source of refuge for a huge part of the hate-based discrimination.  You may want to take a look at a new documentary called “Hate in America” if you’d like to hear more about all the issues every one has with bigots.

For more than 30 years, Emmy-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and Al Jazeera America anchor Tony Harris has reported on senseless and vicious acts of violence, many fueled by intolerance, fear and hate. In the new Investigation Discovery one-hour special HATE IN AMERICA, Harris partners with The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit that has been tracking hate groups across the country since 1971, and NBC News’ award-winning production arm Peacock Productions, to examine the current realities of intolerance in America.

According to the SPLC, more than 900 active hate groups currently exist across the United States, from neo-Nazis to anti-government militias, targeting entire classes of people for their race, religion, and sexuality, among other immutable characteristics. Largely propagated by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy and the diminishing white majority, that number has been on the rise for over a decade.

Traveling to communities torn apart by violence, Harris pulls back the curtain on what drives modern-day hate, and comes face to face with its victims to examine HATE IN AMERICA.

HATE IN AMERICA premieres on Investigation Discovery on Monday, February 23, at 8/7c.

I’ve often wondered why my attitude towards shopping has changed over time.  I used to love going to the big stores downtown and the clerks all seemed so cheery and glamorous.  The buildings were vast and had huge tall ceilings supported by ornate columns.  The window decorations were incredible during the holidays and they were up such a short period that you had to rush down there just to catch them. It was fun to walk from store to store and each store had its on personality and personalities.  This is so different from today’s megastore where every one is rude and seems to only care about low priced junk. The aisles are tight and packed with crap and the crap is hard to find.  There is very little help and only cashiers in far off places.

I used to think I started disliking stores and shopping just because I’d worked so much retail in high school and college. But, I still love to hit little antique stores in quaint places and will take hours staring down some bargain. I figured I’d just burned out on the entire store experience from those years. But, I still love hopping around the big stores in NYC and I used to love hitting the Maison Blanche in downtown New Orleans when I first moved here.  So much of the things I enjoyed about shopping as a customer are gone.  Also, when I was small, even retail store owners and employees had civilized work hours.  Now, all I can think about it how grumpy every one looks and how junky the merchandise has become since they work night and day on every day imaginable. I’ve taken to ordering a lot of stuff on line just to avoid the overall experience of the ugly buildings, merchandise and people.  The thought of going to a Walmart stresses me out. It’s something I avoid if I can.  So, I don’t know.  What happened?

Whatever happened to a fun day at a store?  Oh, well.  Everything changes and now it’s just all about returning profits to a few at the inconvenience and dismay of the many.

So, those are the two interrelated topics that I’ve been investigating this week.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Valentine’s Day Blizzard Edition

Computer simulation of the wind field associated with the New England storm on Feb. 15, 2015.

Computer simulation of the wind field associated with the New England storm on Feb. 15, 2015 (image from Earth Simulator at earth.nullschool.net.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

To anyone who aren’t jaded by past relationship experiences, I wish you a wonderful, romantic day. For the rest of us, it’s Saturday, and that’s nice too. For millions of people in the upper Midwest and New England, it’s just one more blizzard. Ho-Hum {yawn}.

Michigan was in the eye of the storm last night, and later today it will hit the Boston area. Once again, the storm is going to be at its worst along the coast, including in the Greater Boston area. From NBC News: Northeast Braced for Blizzard as Another Winter Storm Looms.

Fifty million Americans were braced for another punishing winter blast Saturday – even as the Northeast was digging out from three major storms in as many weeks.

Twenty-six states were under weekend winter weather warnings, with no sign of an end in sight to the freezing conditions.

Some of the coldest air in the past 20 years will be accompanied by winds approaching hurricane force — and, for the snow-battered coast of New England, what could be a paralyzing blizzard.

A blizzard watch was in effect from the Maine-Canada border south to Long Island and a winter storm watch was in place for New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

We’ve been under a blizzard warning her since yesterday afternoon, but we’re not supposed to get the really high winds until tomorrow. From Mashable: The upcoming Boston blizzard may be equivalent to Category 2 hurricane.

UPDATED 4 p.m. ET: The National Weather Service upgraded the blizzard watch to a blizzard warning for Boston, which is in effect from Saturday at 7 p.m. ET to Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. The blizzard warnings and watches stretch from Cape Cod all the way to the border between Maine and Canada. The NWS is forecasting between 10 to 14 inches of snow in Boston on top of the three to four feet already on the ground, and is also warning of a life-threatening combination of powerful winds and cold temperatures during and in the wake of the storm through Sunday.

The powerful Valentine’s Day storm set to blast eastern New England this weekend with roaring, frigid winds, heavy snow and pounding surf will be so strong that it can be compared in some ways to a Category 2 hurricane.

Fortunately, though, it will not bring the same impacts as a hurricane of that intensity, but its effects on multiple locations — from Providence and Boston to Portland and Bangor, Maine — will be similar to a winter hurricane, with power outages, tree and structural damage, and coastal flooding. Depending on the storm’s exact track, it could dump a foot or more of additional snow in the Boston area, with even more snow in coastal New Hampshire and Maine.

Yup. The good news is that we’re only expecting about a foot of snow this time. After I managed to dig myself out of the last storm all by myself (a little bit at a time), I’m feeling pretty confident I can handle one more foot of snow. Of course there are predictions of more snow for Tuesday and next weekend, but those are puny little 3-5 inch storms. I went to the grocery store yesterday, and I’m all stocked up. I know I won’t get out again for several days, but I’ll deal with it.

Meanwhile how much snow will the Boston area have gotten if the predictions for this storm hold true? Check out this image from the National Weather Service, via Mashable:

Snowfall-projected

So what should I do while I’m trapped in the house today, tomorrow, and who knows how many days after that? I could watch some of these “kickass sci-fi/fantasy” movies at The Mary Sue blog (I found it by following one of JJ’s links from last night’s post).

10 Kick-Ass Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies on Netflix to Celebrate Valentine’s Day With

For some, Valentine’s Day is a day for love, sex, ’n’ romance. For others, it’s… not. Options include: Be Bitter About Your Love Life Day! Be Defensive About Your Lack of Love Life Day! Day Before Discount Candy Day! Or… drumroll…SATURDAY! Regardless of how you choose to live your life, not all of us will be sopping up the rom-com vibes come the fourteenth. For you lovely bastards, I present this list of ten kick-ass action movies to stream on Netflix while all your be-coupled friends are off being all lovey-dovey.

Or, hey, how about some of you watch one of these with your equally-badass significant others? Screw The Notebook. Definitely screw 50 Shades of Grey. (Or don’t screw 50 Shades of Grey. That shit’s gross.) BE BOLD!

Check out the list at the link and see what you think.

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Or I could catch up on the latest political and foreign affairs news. Here are just a few of today’s top stories.

BBC News, Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko says peace deal in danger.

The Ukrainian president has warned a deal to end the war in the east is in “great danger” after heavy fighting ahead of Saturday night’s ceasefire.

Petro Poroshenko also accused Russia of “significantly increasing” its offensive in spite of the peace agreement reached in Minsk on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the US said it was very concerned by reports of heavy weapons coming across the border from Russia.

Big surprise, right? CNN has more details, Shelling in Ukraine cities ahead of midnight ceasefire.

Mariupol, Ukraine (CNN)Shelling could be heard in two eastern Ukrainian cities Saturday morning ahead of a midnight ceasefire deadline, raising fears that the deal to end a bitter 10-month-long conflict may be in jeopardy.

Both incoming and outgoing artillery could be seen in the vicinity of the coastal city of Mariupol, and there was significant shelling in rebel-held Donetsk through the morning, CNN teams reported….

Poroshenko said that after the agreement reached Thursday by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, the offensive against Ukrainian troops by the separatists had intensified.

The separatists may be trying to take control of strategic locations, such as the railroad hub of Debaltseve to the north, before the ceasefire lines are drawn. Pro-Kiev militia have also been pushing forward around government-controlled Mariupol.

Much more at the link.

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Canada says they have prevented a serious attack that didn’t involve Islamic terrorists. CBS News reports:

TORONTO — Canadian authorities said Saturday that a foiled Valentine’s Day mass murder plot in Halifax was not related to Islamic terrorism.

“This appeared to be a group of murderous misfits that were coming here, or were living here, and prepared to wreak havoc and mayhem on our community,” Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay said. “It would have been devastating. Mass casualties were a real possibility.”

MacKay said all the suspects have been arrested or are dead. He said police would release more information publicly later Saturday. He credited police for their quick action.

A senior police official told The Associated Press that the two suspects were planning to go to a mall and kill as many people as they could before committing suicide.

According to the Globe and Mail,

Mr. MacKay [said that the] group’s motivation…seemed to be “quite random”. “It didn’t appear to be any specific philosophy that motivated this,” he said. “So there is no clear line … there is a very grey area in terms of anyone who would do this for any reason,” he said.

Police have yet to say what was motivating the four young people – three men from Nova Scotia and a woman from Illinois.

Referring to today being Valentine’s Day, Mr. MacKay said: “A day known to represent love and affection would have taken on a much different meaning today.”

“Based on what we know so far it would have been devastating,” he said. “Mass casualties were a real possibility.”

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Just a short time ago today, there was an attack on a “free speech event” in Copenhagen. NBC News reports:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. The TV2 channel said Saturday there were some 30 bullet holes in the window of the Krudttoenden cafe and said at least two people were taken away on stretchers, including a uniformed police officer. NBC News has not immediately confirmed the details.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organizers of the event, told The Associated Press that Vilks was present at the event but not injured. When the artist is in Denmark, he receives police protection. The cafe in northern Copenhagen, known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” when the shots were fired. Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel that he saw two wounded people.

I guess we’ll be hearing more about that later today.

Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon resigned yesterday in the wake of a scandal involving his fiancee, who has been acting as the state’s first lady.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned effective Wednesday, Feb. 18, in a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown.

“I am announcing today that I will resign as Governor of the State of Oregon,” he wrote in a statement released just after noon Friday.

Brown, also a Democrat, will be sworn in as Oregon’s 37th governor, but the timing of that ceremony is uncertain.

In just four months, a public corruption scandal involving Kitzhaber and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, has hobbled one of Oregon’s most durable politicians. Kitzhaber, a public official for 37 years, was sworn in for a historic fourth term as governor just a month ago. Facing not only a state criminal investigation and an ethics review, Kitzhaber watched his support from fellow veteran lawmakers crumble this week.

The governor’s resignation does not end either the criminal investigation or ethics review.

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The Oregonian has more details on the scandal, Massive FBI investigation targets Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Cylvia Hayes, and the Washington Post has a profile of Kitzhaber’s successor, This woman will soon become the first openly bisexual governor in American history.

In Alabama, the fight against allowing same sex couples to marry appears to be failing, according to The Washington Post, A majority of Alabama counties are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Two-thirds of Alabama counties have agreed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to gay rights groups, a dramatic turnaround from earlier this week when all but a handful were holding the licenses back.

The change in policy came after a federal judge on Thursday ordered officials in Mobile County to comply with her ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The decision led a number of probate judges to conclude that the ruling also applies to them, even though they got conflicting orders from the state’s chief justice, Roy Moore.

“Once that was done yesterday, [the probate judge] was satisfied we wouldn’t end up in a lawsuit or in trouble, so we’re doing it,” said a woman who identified herself as a manager in the Cherokee County probate office, one of at least 42 counties where same-sex marriage licenses are now available in Alabama, according to Equality Alabama, a local gay rights group. The manager declined to give her name because she wasn’t authorized to speak for the office.

“It wasn’t ever a thing of us not wanting to, morally or religiously, we were just kind of waiting for clarification,” she said.

Several counties indicated they would begin issuing the licenses next week. Still, that left about 20 of the state’s 67 counties as apparent holdouts.

And The New York times has a nice profile of an Alabama gay couple who have “tr[ied] to wed, early and often.”

flowers

Finally, an Appeal for Help from Sky Dancers

Before I sign off, I need to ask our readers for some help for my dear friend Dakinikat. Although she rarely complains, Kat has struggled for the past 4-5 years with chronic pain and an inability to walk or stand for any length of time because of untreatable dermatitis on her feet. At times her feet bleed and she has to go through multiple changes of socks in the course of a day. She has tried every possible treatment for the condition, but nothing seems to work for any length of time.

For the past 3 years Kat has essentially been disabled. Frankly,  just getting out of the house to buy groceries is a painful process for her. It is even difficult for her to do daily tasks around the house like laundry and loading the dishwasher.

Kat has been doing her best to support herself with an on-line teaching job that she can do at home, but the work pays so poorly that IMHO, it amounts to slave labor. It hasn’t been enough to cover her mortgage and other basic expenses. As a result, Kat was forced to dip into her savings and at this point the money she had saved for retirement is nearly gone.

The three of us writers work very hard to produce interesting posts 7 days a week. All three of us are struggling financially and in other ways, but we take pride in this blog and the work we have done to sustain it for quite a few years now. But this blog would be nothing without Dakinikat. I well remember what a relief it was to come here after the difficulties many of us experienced at another place. I’m sure a number of you also recall those days. Kat is the one who opened her personal blog to us and who has taken responsibility for maintaining and improving the blog design over the years.

Right now, Kat is truly in desperate straits. I suggested that we should ask for contributions to help tide her over until she can either find more work or figure out what else she can do to make ends meet–perhaps by moving to a state that isn’t being bankrupted by its own governor.

If you have appreciated this blog over the years and you can afford to give something, I would be eternally grateful. We seldom ask for donations at Sky Dancing; we do this because we love to write and we’re fascinated by politics and current events. But this is a special case. Kat has been a wonderful friend to me–and to others here as well–and I hate to see her struggling like this. Please help if you can afford it–if you can’t, I totally understand. But I had to ask. Thanks so much for reading this and for whatever you can do to help.

What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!


Lazy Saturday Reads

NYC Newsstand on a rainy day

NYC Newsstand on a rainy day.

 

Good Afternoon!!

First, I want to thank everyone who responded to our request for help with blog expenses. We are so fortunate to have such kind and loyal readers. You guys are the greatest!

The biggest story on my mind today is the Supreme Court’s decision to rule on the same-sex marriage issue. I have to admit, I’m very nervous about it. What if the Court rules that states can ban same-sex marriages and refuse to recognize such marriages from other states? Some background from SCOTUS blog:

Taking on a historic constitutional challenge with wide cultural impact, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex marriage.   The Court said it would rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state.  A total of two-and-a-half hours was allocated for the hearings, likely in the April sitting.  A final ruling is expected by early next summer, probably in late June.

The Court fashioned the specific questions it is prepared to answer, but they closely tracked the two core constitutional issues that have led to a lengthy string of lower-court rulings striking down state bans.  As of now, same-sex marriages are allowed in thirty-six states, with bans remaining in the other fourteen but all are under court challenge.

Although the Court said explicitly that it was limiting review to the two basic issues, along the way the Justices may have to consider what constitutional tests they are going to apply to state bans, and what weight to give to policies that states will claim to justify one or the other of the bans….

The focus of the Court’s review will be a decision issued in early November by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  That decision, breaking ranks with most other courts, upheld bans on marriage or marriage-recognition in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Friday’s order granted review of one petition from each of those states; the petitions phrase the two basic issues in somewhat different ways, which is why the Court rewrote them to make specifically clear what it intended to review.

The Kentucky case (Bourke v. Beshear) raises both of the issues that the Court will be deciding, the Michigan case (DeBoer v. Snyder) deals only with marriage, and the Ohio (Obergefell v. Hodges) and Tennessee cases (Tanco v. Haslam) deal only with the recognition question. If customary practice is followed, the first case listed in the order — the Ohio case Obergefell v. Hodges — will become the historic title for the final ruling.

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The problem for the conservative justices will be that public opinion has shifted so rapidly on this issue–if they decide to limit the civil rights of LGBT Americans, there would probably be a serious backlash. From The Washington Post:

The country’s first same-sex marriage, the result of a Massachusetts court decision, took place less than 11 years ago. Now, more than 70 percent of Americans live in states where same-sex couples are allowed to marry, according to estimates.

The questions raised in the cases that the court will consider this spring were left open in 2013 when the justices last confronted the issue of same-sex marriage. A slim majority said at the time that a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — withholding recognition of same-sex marriages — was unconstitutional and in a separate case allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Since then, courts across the nation — with the notable exception of the Cincinnati appeals court — have struck down a string of state prohibitions on same-sex marriage, many of them passed by voters in referendums. Many of those court decisions compared the prohibitions to the ones on interracial marriage that the Supreme Court struck down in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia.

When the Supreme Court declined to review a clutch of those decisions in October, same-sex marriage proliferated across the country.

Couples may now marry in 36 states and the District. Three in four same-sex couples live in a state where they are allowed to wed, according to estimates by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Chief Justice John Roberts will have to keep all that in mind if he cares about his place in history.

Rand Paul

While we’re talking about the conservative trend on the Supreme Court, take a look at this sobering article at Think Progress: If You Want To Understand What’s Happened To The Supreme Court, You Need To Listen To Rand Paul.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is an odd place to seek counsel on the Constitution. As a Senate candidate in 2010, Paul told a Louisville editorial board that he opposed the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters, claiming that the right of “private ownership” should trump the right to be free from racist discrimination. Opposing a core protection for racial minorities, according to Paul, is “the hard part about believing in freedom.” He later suggested that civil rights laws targeting private businesses may exceed Congress’s power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause — a view the Supreme Court unanimously rejected in 1964.

Yet the Heritage Foundation, one of the backbones of the conservative movement in Washington, DC, invited Paul to speak at length on the Constitution and the role of the judiciary earlier this week. If the audience was upset that voters sometimes elect leaders who disagree with the Heritage Foundation, they were no doubt enraptured by Paul’s vision for the courts. Senator Paul’s speech was a repudiation of democracy, and he called for the Supreme Court to assume a dominant role in setting American policy that it abandoned three generations ago. Under Paul’s vision, the minimum wage is forbidden and union busting is constitutionally protected. The New Deal is an illegitimate expansion of federal power, and more recent efforts to ensure that no one dies because they cannot afford health care are an abomination.

“I’m a judicial activist,” Paul proudly proclaimed.

Nevertheless, Paul’s speech to the Heritage Foundation is worth watching in its entirety. It lays out a vision that is closer than the Court’s current precedents suggest, and that could easily become a reality if the Court’s older members are replaced by younger conservatives. Moreover, as I explain in my book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted, a Supreme Court committed to Paul’s economic agenda would hardly be unprecedented in American history. If anything, Paul is asking the Court to return to its self-appointed role as the vanguard against democracy.

It’s a fairly long piece, but please go read the rest if you can.
ron paul disability
Rand Paul is running for president, and he was up in New Hampshire this week, and he took the opportunity to attack the Social Security disability program. Remember the Republicans have already undercut this program with a rules change.
From The Boston Globe, Rand Paul tests, and roils, the political waters in N.H.
While state legislators ate eggs and drank coffee in a Manchester diner, Paul suggested that half of the recipients of federal disability relief are “gaming the system” because they are able to work. He also told them the arguments against building the Keystone XL pipeline are “this sort of Luddite, flat-earth, that my goodness we shouldn’t have cars” mentality.
Paul shared his reactionary ideas about some other topics like his goal of abolishing the Department of Education, but
It was Paul’s comments about disability benefits that drew the most attention, largely because Democrats quickly pounced.

During a question-and-answer period, Paul was asked about government programs and welfare.

“You know, the thing is that all of these programs — there’s always somebody who is deserving. Everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system,” said Paul.

“What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check,” Paul said. “You know, over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a back pain.”

Really? I’m over 60, and I might get a little bit stiff sometimes, but I certainly don’t have chronic back pain. Let’s see what the fact checkers have to say about Paul’s claim.

Politifact

Politifact: Rand Paul says most people receive disability for back pain, anxiety.

You can read the whole article for the details and some caveats, but here’s the bottom line:

Paul said, “Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.”

The numbers don’t add up. The two broader disability categories that include back pain (“diseases of the musculoskeletal system”) and anxiety disorders (“mental disorders – other”) don’t even equal close to 50 percent, let alone those two ailments by themselves.

Paul’s quip might make for a good soundbite, but it’s not rooted in reality. We rate the statement False.

As for people “gaming the system,” Politifact notes a report from the Government Accountability Office that estimated that

…in fiscal year 2011, the Social Security Administration made $1.29 billion in potential cash benefit overpayments to about 36,000 individuals who were working and making more than $1,100 a month (the limit to receive disability benefits).

The 36,000 people receiving improper payments, while a lot on paper, represent about 0.4 percent of all beneficiaries, the report said.

Talking Points Memo posted a video of three “christian” men “apologizing” to women for allowing them to have abortions. It’s the most patronizing bit of mansplaining I’ve seen I’ve seen in a very long time. From TPM:

“I conceded to an abortion,” Pastor Shane Idleman says. “That decision still haunts me today.”

Against a montage of giggling, joyful children and babies, the men discuss how much they regret the decision and take responsibility for letting down God, women and their unborn children.

“I should’ve manned up and I should’ve fought for you and — I didn’t,” John Blandford says. “I didn’t.”

Then come the apologies to all women who have had an abortion, women who have been “subjected to such a terrible thing,” women who “no one tried to rescue,” and women who have “tried to hide this from everyone.”

“I’m sorry for men not taking a greater stand in this area,” Idleman says.

“I’m sorry that, I’m sorry that this is available,” Daniel Phillips says.

But don’t worry all you sinful women “hid[ing] in shame and darkness,” you can always repent and ask god to forgive you. Watch the video yourself if you can stomach it.

Here’s an interesting story from Slate’s Hanna Rosin about the “free range parenting movement.”

Police Investigate Family for Letting Their Kids Walk Home Alone. Parents, We All Need to Fight Back.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.

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Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explicitly ally themselves with the “free range” parenting movement, which believes that children have to take calculated risks in order to learn to be self-reliant. Their kids usually even carry a card that says: “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid,” although they didn’t happen to have it that day. They had carefully prepared their kids for that walk, letting them go first just around the block, then to a library a little farther away, and then the full mile. When the police came to the door, they did not present as hassled overworked parents who leave their children alone at a playground by necessity, or laissez-faire parents who let their children roam wherever, but as an ideological counterpoint to all that’s wrong with child-rearing in America today. If we are lucky, the Meitivs will end up on every morning talk show and help convince American parents that it’s perfectly OK to let children walk without an adult to the neighborhood playground.

Perhaps if they had been black and lived in South Carolina, they would have been arrested like Debra Harrell, the single mother who let her daughter go to the playground while she was working at McDonald’s. As white suburban professionals, the Meitivs experienced a lower level of intrusion, but still one that would make any parent bristle. The police asked for the father’s ID, and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs, and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand “shots would be fired,” according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says.) Soon after, a representative from Montgomery County Child Welfare Services came by and required that the couple sign a “safety plan” promising not to let the children go unsupervised until the following week, when another CPS worker would talk to them. At first, the dad refused, but then the workers told him they would take the kids away if he did not sign.

It’s a thought-provoking piece. Read more at the link.

Masha

Finally, a feel-good story, thanks to Ralph B., who posted it on Facebook.

From The Washington Post: Russia’s heroic cat Masha: She’s credited with saving an abandoned infant from winter’s deep freeze.

Masha the cat – as the stray is called by the residents of the building she calls home in Obninsk – found the infant in an entryway Saturday night and climbed into the box in which the baby had been left.

One of the building’s residents heard the cat and the baby’s cries. At first, Nadezhda Makhovikova just thought she was hearing Masha in some sort of distress. “When I went down, I saw it was a baby crying,” Makhovikova told REN TV earlier this week.

Reports said the baby had been left with a pacifier, bottle and diapers, and was dressed warmly, wearing a little hat, as residents described him – though he likely would have had difficulty staying warm enough to survive a whole night in the sub-freezing temperatures in the area.

Residents called an ambulance, which whisked the baby away to a local hospital – but not before Masha would try to accompany the baby on the way.

Here’s a video about Masha. It’s in Russian, but you can get the gist.

 

So . . . what else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the long weekend!


Friday Reads: Zombie Memes

zombie-apocalypseGood Morning!

The Ebola Virus and the epidemic in Africa is real.  The right wing hysteria about the virus is rivaling the bad plots of the Zombie movies I’m watching during SyFy’s Countdown to Halloween.  I thought I’d spend some time separating the facts from the conspiracy theories today.  So let me start with one of the most outrageous Zombie Memes from one of the most vile women on the planet. Dementia or further evidence of the advanced stages of evil?  It’s your choice.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily published today, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly weighed in on the unfounded theory gaining traction in the right-wing media that Central American young people are to blame for an outbreak of a childhood respiratory illness in the U.S.

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly told WND, adding that “of all the things [Obama has] done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”

She went on to imply that President Obama is intentionally allowing people infected with Ebola into the United States because he wants America to be “just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly – author of “Who Killed the American Family?” – said she agrees Obama is responsible for allowing diseases to enter the country.

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly said. “And it’s Obama’s job to keep them out.

“Out of all the things he’s done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”

Schlafly said the government should screen immigrants for disease before they enter the country, as was done at Ellis Island a hundred years ago.

“That was the purpose of Ellis Island – to have a waiting place where it was decided whether people were healthy enough or responsible enough to come into our country,” she said. “The idea that anybody can just walk in and carry this disease with them is just an outrage, and it is Obama’s fault because he’s responsible for doing it.”

When asked why the current administration hasn’t done more to prevent diseased illegal aliens or Ebola carriers from Africa from entering the country, Schlafly said Obama wants to make the U.S. more like the rest of the world.

“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” Schlafly said. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Yup, it’s despicable She. Still foaming at the mouth after all these years too.

Okay, so as not to overwhelm you with teh crazy all at once.  Let’s go to some science and medicine.zombies1

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a top-level forum in Washington, D.C., that the Ebola outbreak is unlike anything he’s seen since the AIDS epidemic.

“I would say that in the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS,” Frieden said before the heads of the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, according to AFP.

Frieden added: “We have to work now so that it is not the world’s next AIDS.”

Frieden’s comments come as the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died Wednesday despite intense but delayed treatment. The U.S. government also announced it was expanding airport examinations to guard against the spread of the deadly disease.

The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports.

The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York’s JFK International Airport and then expand to Washington Dulles and the international airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark. An estimated 150 people per day will be checked, using high-tech thermometers that don’t touch the skin.

The White House said the fever checks would reach more than 9 of 10 travelers to the U.S. from the three heaviest-hit countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

President Barack Obama called the measures “really just belt and suspenders” to support protections already in place. Border Patrol agents now look for people who are obviously ill, as do flight crews, and in those cases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is notified.

It’s unlikely a fever check would have spotted Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital Wednesday morning. Duncan wasn’t yet showing symptoms when he arrived in the U.S.

signsofthezombieapocalypse_wpid-signsofthezombieapocalypse_zombies-cementerio1So the disease is ravaging West Africa.  That’s where the problem is and needs to be solved.

There are the facts about the state of the Ebola crisis. In West Africa, more than 8,000 people have contracted the disease and nearly half have died. In the U.S., there’s just one confirmed casethat of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who passed away in Dallas on Wednesday. Experts say that the caseload in West Africa is likely to get much, much bigger. As many as 1.4 million people could get the disease, with a large fraction of them dying from it. The same experts expect no similar outbreak here, even if a few more cases appear, because we have the personnel and the resources to limit exposure.

But all of the news on Wednesday was about developments here in the U.S.in particular, new screening efforts at five major U.S. airports, Duncan’s death, and reports of possible new cases in the U.S., including one in Dallas. You could tell by the questions that Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, fielded during a late afternoon press conference.  He got more than a dozen of them. Only two were about the situation abroad. (And one of them, it so happens, came from me.)

The preoccupation with what’s happening here, as opposed to what’s happening over there, is perfectly understandable. On Tuesday, a Gallup poll revealed that Americans today are as worried about contracting Ebola as they were about contracting H1N1, the swine flu, during that outbreak two years ago. By that time, millions of people had gotten H1N1 and thousands had already died. But people die from flu all the time, usually because they are very young or very old or already otherwise infirmed. It’s a threat that people have factored into their daily lives, if at all. Ebola is quite literally a foreign menace, one to which almost nobody gave much thought until a few weeks ago. The virus kills about half the people who get it, with little regard for age or health status of the person infected.

That fear goes a long way to explaining why the U.S. is implementing the new screening process at the airports. Customs and Border Patrol agents were already on the lookout for people with visible signs of the disease. Now they will add another layer of scrutiny. They will use questionnaires to screen for people who have been in affected countriesand, then, subject these people to temperature tests and more questioning. People who have fever or show other Ebola symptoms will be evaluated by quarantine officers from the CDC, then referred to local health authorities who will decide how to handle the cases. The primary goal is to identify any passengers infected with Ebola before they leave the airport.

But yes, the right wing is hysterical and afraid and lying as the right wing is prone to do.

Of all the issues that you would think would be non-partisan, Ebola should be at the top of the list. The disease is just a mindless germ that doesn’t check your race, gender, social class, sexual orientation or party identification before it strikes, suggesting both liberals and conservatives ¿Quién Está Creando Zombies Y Para Qué¿ 3have a stake in treating people exposed to the disease with compassion and care. And yet, to flip on Fox News or turn on any conservative media at all, you’d think that ebola was some kind of plague designed by the Democratic party in order to wipe out Republicans.

Blowing the threat of ebola out of proportion and trying to link it to Obama has been a constant theme on the right in recent days. Elisabeth Hasselbeck of Fox News literally demanded that we put the country on lockdown, banning all travel in and out. In a bit of race-baiting, Andrea Tantaros of Fox suggested that people who travel to the country and show symptoms of ebola will “seek treatment from a witch doctor” instead of go to the hospital. Fox host Steve Doocy suggested the CDC is lying about ebola because they’re “part of the administration”. Fox also promoted a conspiracy theorist who is trying to claim the CDC is lying when they caution people not to panic.

Other right wing media joined in. Tammy Bruce blamed ebola on the “Obama legacy”. Laura Ingraham said Obama was prevented from doing more to stop the disease because of his “core ties to the African continent”. Rush Limbaugh even went as far as to accuse Obama of letting the disease spread because he supposes liberals believe “we kind of deserve a little bit of this”.

Okay, so here’s a zombie mistake and a big one.   Justice Kennedy’s Typo Accidentally Stops Same-Sex Marriage in Nevada.

Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy stunned America when he ordered a halt on Nevada’s same-sex marriages, less than a day after the Court voted to overturn a ban on gay marriages in that state. Turns out that it was a total accident. Yes, a big ol’ “oops, my bad” incident.

According to SCOTUSBlog, what happened was the following: The Ninth Circuit recently heard challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada, who, for the purposes of convenience, had combined both of their challenges into a single case. In two different rulings, the federal appellate court struck down both of these states’ bans, allowing same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada, and issued a mandate on the ruling to immediately enforce the new law. In other words, the moment that the Ninth Circuit struck down the ban, gay and lesbian couples could get married immediately.

This did not make Idaho happy, so they filed a request to Justice Kennedy asking him to put a stop on same-sex marriage in Idaho, so that state officials could review their case before the Ninth Circuit. Kennedy allowed it, but in a total brain fart moment, issued an order that put a stop on weddings in both Idaho and Nevada, even though nobody in Nevada had asked for a review, either.

Thankfully, same-sex marriages can still occur in Las Vegas for the time being, but unfortunately, nobody knows what the eff is happening anymore. As a result, the Ninth Circuit has recalled its order implementing same-sex marriage in Idaho and are asking for briefs as to whether they need to do the same in Nevada.

Good job, Kennedy. Look how much confusion your typo has caused.

Oh, another Zombie Meme replacing Benghazi these days.  It’s not only Ebola that’s Obama’s fault but also ISIL.  It’s all about killing white people!!!  Here’s some great links and proof from Politicus.toht-facepalm-jeff-robertson

We have shown that for the GOP, the threat of Ebola exists only as an excuse to attack President Obama, that it’s all Obama’s fault (of course) and that, Oh my God! Oh my God! It’s going to kill us all! Cue to Rand Paul diving under his bed.

We have also been closely following the rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and have tried to show you the contrast between the Republican and the Democratic reactions.

We have shown that for the GOP, the threat of ISIL exists only as an excuse to attack President Obama, that it’s all Obama’s fault (of course) and that Oh my God! Oh my God! They’re going to kill us all! Cue to Lindsey Graham diving under his bed.

It is surely significant that yesterday Time Magazine should profile the Republican response to the ISIL “scandal”: GOP Ad Claims ISIS Plot to Attack U.S. Via ‘Arizona’s Backyard.’

As Time’s Zeke Miller and Alex Rogers describe the ad, which was posted to YouTube yesterday,

The National Republican Congressional Committee ad opens with grainy footage of black flags and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) holding rifles on military vehicles. “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” an ominous voiceover states. “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard.” The spot goes on to recount how Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), locked in a close re-election fight with Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, has voted against border security legislation, suggesting that she “leaves Arizona vulnerable.”

Chris Wallace of Fox News has already planted the suggestion in viewers’ facile minds that Ebola could come across our Southern Border and that it could be used as a weapon. It doesn’t matter after those words are spoken than an expert debunks them. The damage has been done.

The brain damage was done to any one that actually believes these things years ago.

So what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Obama KOs Perry, and Other News

22cambridge_span

Good Morning!!

Yesterday President Obama met with Texas Governor Rick Perry to discuss the so-called “immigration crisis.” Perry had initially refused to shake hands with the President as Obama disembarked from Airforce One, but Perry ended up doing it anyway.

From Mediaite: Rick Perry Admits Defeat, Shakes President Obama’s Hand.

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) was determined not to shake President Barack Obama’s hand when he arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth airport on Wednesday. But in the end, it appears he just couldn’t help himself.

As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said while Obama was descending the steps of Air Force One, “I’m anxious to see if the governor Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is there at the bottom of the stairs to receive the president of the United States.”

The anchor betrayed some surprise when Perry walked across the tarmac to greet Obama, shaking his hand and walking side by side to Marine One, where they would have a private meeting about the current crisis at the border.

It’s been ages since I’ve watched CNN, but it sounds like Wolf and his network are practically outdoing Fox News. Do they not see the racial implications of a Republican Governor resisting shaking hands with an African-American President?

On Monday, the Austin American-Statesman reported: Rick Perry declines Obama offer for ‘quick handshake’ at Austin airport.

Gov. Rick Perry Monday turned down what he characterized as President Barack Obama’s offer for a “quick handshake on the tarmac” at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Wednesday, but said he would juggle his schedule to accommodate a “substantive meeting” with the president on the border crisis any time during his two-day visit to Texas.

In a letter to the president, Perry wrote, “I appreciate the offer to greet you at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, but a quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. I would instead offer to meet with you at any time during your visit to Texas for a substantive meeting to discuss this critical issue. With the appropriate notice, I am willing to change my schedule to facilitate this request.”

“At any point while you are here, I am available to sit down privately so we can talk and you may directly gain my state’s perspective on the effects of an unsecured border and what is necessary to make it secure,” Perry wrote the president.

In addition, Perry actually said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday:

“I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure,” Perry said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” charging the president was either “inept” or had an “ulterior motive” in failing to secure the border.

Perry Obama

Back to the Mediaite story:

Following Perry’s letter, the Obama administration decided to invite the governor to join Obama at a previously scheduled meeting with faith leaders and elected officials in Dallas. Following that concession, Perry decided he would be comfortable greeting Obama on the tarmac, though he did not indicate whether he would deign to shake the president’s hand.

If Perry was wary of the type of photo-op that has haunted Republicans like Governor Chris Christie(R-NJ), and former Republicans like Charlie Crist, he can at least be thankful that the president did not try to hug him. Though, he did give him a few friendly pats on the back.

Mediaite thinks the photos will doom Perry’s chances for the 2016 Republican nomination; but after his performance in 2012, it seems pretty obvious that Perry himself will destroy his presidential hopes all by himself.

So what happened when the two men met? The New York Times reports: Obama Presses Perry to Rally Support for Border Funds. According to the authors, Jackie Calmes and Ashley Parker, Obama “directly challenged” Perry to convince Congressional Republicans to support $3.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with what Perry has called “a humanitarian crisis” — “thousands of Central American children who have crossed the Mexican border.”

Perry frown

And from The Wire: Rick Perry’s Immigration Meeting With Obama Produces Photo for the Ages.

So, how did President Obama’s meeting with Republican Governor Rick Perry go today? In a statement on Wednesday, Obama described the meeting as “constructive,” but, well, this photo also exists. It’s not immediately clear what the context of this photo was — Is Perry sad? Uncomfortable? Telling a funny story? Happy, but trying to look serious? Hmm. Perhaps someone made a joke at Perry’s expense? Or maybe Perry just makes the Robert De Niro shrug face a lot for no reason.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter right now. Until we know more about the context, the photo will be a Rorschach test. In the future, there will be Midrash about this photo.

A couple more links on the border crisis:

The Washington Post: Dana Milbank: In border crisis, Obama is accused of ‘lawlessness’ for following law.

A querulous quartet of conservatives took to the Senate floor Wednesday….to criticize the president for failing to visit the border during his visit to Texas this week, was coordinated by Sen. John McCain and included fellow Arizonan Jeff Flake and both of the chamber’s Texans, Sen. John Cornyn and the man McCain once dubbed a “wacko bird,” Sen. Ted Cruz.

“President Obama today is down in the state of Texas, but sadly he’s not visiting the border,” said Cruz, in a rare collaboration with McCain. “. . . He’s visiting Democratic fat cats to collect checks, and apparently there’s no time to look at the disaster, at the devastation that’s being caused by his policies. . . . It is a disaster that is the direct consequence of President Obama’s lawlessness.” ….

But this border crisis, sowed years ago and building for months, is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor. It’s a humanitarian nightmare in which children, some as young as 4, can face physical and sexual abuse, injury and death in their lonely journeys. What’s upside-down about the Cruz-Palin argument is that this crisis has actually been brought about by Obama following the law.

The most obvious and direct cause of the flood of children from Central America is the 2008 human trafficking law that ended the rapid deportation of unaccompanied minors who come illegally from countries other than Mexico and Canada. The law essentially guarantees long stays for these immigrants by promising them a deportation process that can take 18 months, during which time they are often placed with family members who have little incentive to have the kids show up for hearings.

Lindsay Graham disagrees with his good buddy McCain, according to The Hill:

Republicans will take the political fall if they don’t provide emergency funds to address the immigrant crisis at the southern border, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Wednesday.

A number of conservatives on Capitol Hill are pushing back hard against President Obama’s request for almost $4 billion to manage the spike of immigrants — thousands of them unaccompanied minors — that’s hit the Texas-Mexico border in recent months.

But Graham, a long-time supporter of an immigration system overhaul, said a failure to provide the funds will exacerbate the crisis while handing Obama and the Democrats a political victory ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“If we do that, then we’re going to get blamed for perpetuating the problem,” Graham told reporters on Wednesday.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that right wing Republicans acted against their political best interest.

In other news,

Mike Pence

Mike Pence

Another Republican Governor has made an ass of himself  (not for the first time). Indiana Governor Mike Pence has told state agencies to not to honor the hundreds of gay marriages that took place after a federal court in Indianapolis invalidated as unconstitutional Indiana’s law banning same-sex marriages.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s office is telling state agencies act as if no gay marriages had been performed during three days following a federal court order.

The memo from the governor’s chief counsel tells executive branch agencies to execute their functions as though the June 25 court order had not been issued.

Pence defended the memo Wednesday and the sentiment expressed in it Wednesday afternoon. He said it was his job as governor to carry out the laws of the State of Indiana.

“The State of Indiana must operate in a manner with the laws of Indiana. So we have directed our state agencies earlier this week to conduct themselves in a way that respects current Indiana law, pending this matter’s process through the courts,” Pence said.

A “disappointed” Beth White responded to Pence’s order:

“As Clerk of Marion County, I was proud our office was able to issue these licenses and officiate over 450 weddings for couples, many of whom have been in loving committed relationships for decades. Governor Pence owes these couples an explanation on why he continues to deem them as second class citizens. They legally obtained their license, paid the requisite fee and should be entitled to the same rights and privileges the rest of us enjoy.

It is time for our state leaders to put the issue behind us so that we can focus on strengthening the middle-class, investing in quality education and rebuilding Indiana’s economy. Hoosier businesses depend on the best and brightest employees to compete in the global economy. Indiana is rolling up the welcome mat with this regressive stance on this issue. Although my opponent has a long history of opposing marriage equality, I call on Mrs. Lawson to reject Governor Pence’s ruling today. The Office of the Secretary of State should be welcoming to all employers choosing to invest or reinvest in Indiana. And that includes their prospective employees and their families. Hoosiers deserve common sense leadership that is focused on moving Indiana forward.”

Greenwald

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released an official statement in response to the latest article and statements by Glenn Greenwald that suggest without any supporting evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies are essentially duplicating the illegal actions of COINTELPRO from 1956-1971.

Joint Statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice on Court-ordered Legal Surveillance of U.S. Persons.

It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights.

Unlike some other nations, the United States does not monitor anyone’s communications in order to suppress criticism or to put people at a disadvantage based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

Our intelligence agencies help protect America by collecting communications when they have a legitimate foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose.

With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance.

These court orders are issued by an independent federal judge only if probable cause, based on specific facts, are established that the person is an agent of a foreign power, a terrorist, a spy, or someone who takes orders from a foreign power.

No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.

On the other hand, a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.

The United States is as committed to protecting privacy rights and individual freedom as we are to defending our national security.

Take from that what you will. The Greenwald cultists simply dismiss statements coming that from the Government as lies, and assume the worst. My tendency is to base my opinions on evidence. So far I haven’t seen evidence in anything coming from the Snowden leaks that NSA is specifically targeting people because of their political and/or religious beliefs. In my opinion the FBI has done this, but Greenwald’s latest article doesn’t even present valid evidence against the FBI.

On the other hand, I’d like to see Congress do a serious investigation of what NSA and other intelligence agencies are actually doing, and particularly I’d like the government to address the issue of whether the five Americans named in Greenwald’s article were actually targeted and why. The supposed targeting happened before 2008, so perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if more information were released about the reasons.

For further reactions to the latest claims from The Intercept and The Washington Post–and to the DNI/DOJ statement, check out  to the following links.

Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter, Greenwald’s Latest NSA Bombshell is an Incomplete Mess, Lacking Any Evidence of Wrongdoing. Here’s the lede:

Glenn Greenwald’s “grand finale fireworks display” finally appeared online early Wednesday and, indeed, there were fireworks but not the “spectacular multicolored hues” he predicted. The fireworks instead came in the form of a bombshell that exploded in a mushroom cloud of shoddy reporting and the usual hyperbolic, misleading accusations that have been the centerpiece of his brand of journalism for more than a year.

You need to read the entire article to understand Cesca’s article, so please go over there if you’re interested in this issue.

Driftglass,  Beware the Tingler: Glenn Greenwald, The Phantom Menace, and The Present Progressive Tense.

Marc Ambinder at The Week analyzes the IC official statement, What you need to know about the latest NSA revelations.

Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare: On Glenn Greenwald’s Latest.

That’s all the news I have room for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Thursday!


Thursday Reads

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

Childe Hassam – Two Women Reading

Good Morning!!

 

Wolf Blitzer must be celebrating this morning, because the mystery plane is back in the headlines.

Associated Press reports (via CTV):

SYDNEY, Australia — Investigators looking into the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane are confident it was on autopilot when it crashed in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, Australian officials said Thursday as they announced the latest shift in the search for the jet.

After analyzing data exchanged between the plane and a satellite, officials believe Flight 370 was on autopilot the entire time it was flying across a vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean, based on the straight path it took, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said.

“Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean, we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel,” Dolan told reporters in Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Asked whether the autopilot would have to be manually switched on, or whether it could have been activated automatically under a default setting, Dolan replied, “The basic assumption would be that if the autopilot is operational it’s because it’s been switched on.”

But exactly why the autopilot would have been set on a flight path so far off course from the jet’s destination of Beijing, and exactly when it was switched on remains unknown.

The New York Times explains what likely happened:

Wolf plane

A report issued by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, outlining how the new search zone had been chosen, said that the most likely scenario as the aircraft headed south across the Indian Ocean on March 8 was that the crew was suffering from hypoxia or was otherwise unresponsive.

Hypoxia occurs when a plane loses air pressure and the pilots, lacking adequate oxygen, become confused and incapable of performing even basic manual tasks.

Pilots are trained to put on oxygen masks immediately if an aircraft suffers depressurization; their masks have an hour’s air supply, compared with only a few minutes for the passengers. The plane, which left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing, with 239 people aboard, made its turn south toward the Indian Ocean about an hour after it stopped responding to air-traffic controllers….

Evidence for an unresponsive crew as the plane flew south includes the loss of radio communications, a long period with no maneuvering of the aircraft, a steadily maintained cruise altitude and eventual fuel exhaustion and descent, the report said.

“Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,” the document said.

Based on the report, a new search zone has been designated, according to the LA Times:

Experts from Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were among the specialists who helped define the zone, based on satellite data and analysis of previous similar incidents.

The new zone, about 1,100 miles west of Perth, Australia, is farther south than where previous intensive search efforts were carried out this spring after the plane vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard. The flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it went missing….

Australia Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the search was continuing with a mapping of the ocean floor in the newly defined area, to be followed by a comprehensive seafloor search.

The seafloor search, he said, should start around August and be completed within one year. The area is 58 miles wide and 400 miles long, covering an area as big as Lake Huron, the second-largest of the U.S. Great Lakes. By comparison, the area searched with a robotic, sonar-equipped submarine in May was about 330 square miles.

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

There was exciting news yesterday in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage state by state.

From NPR: Federal Judges Reverse Gay-Marriage Bans In Utah, Indiana.

Utah and Indiana are the latest states to see their bans on same-sex marriage struck down by a federal court, following rulings in both states Wednesday that found the prohibition unconstitutional.

In Utah, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling striking down the state’s gay-marriage ban. And in Indiana,U.S. District Judge Richard Young made a similar ruling.

“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the three-judge panel in the Utah case said. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending its appeal, either to the entire 10th Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.

In Indiana, Young wrote: “Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. … These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

Both decisions are significant in that they may influence decisions in other states.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, writes NPR in an email that the Utah decision “is very significant, as [it is] the first appellate court to address the marriage equality issue.

“The 4th Circuit [in Virginia] may well apply the reasoning of the 10th Circuit opinion, as will numerous district courts that have yet to rule,” he says.

“The Indiana ruling invalidating its ban today also used similar reasoning,” Tobias says. “All courts are finding that the bans violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.”

In another breakthrough, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has announced that she supports same-sex marriage. From The Washington Post: 

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in a statement, adding later: “I have long opposed efforts to impose a federal ban on same-sex marriage. In both 2004 and 2006, I voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by preempting state laws.”

Collins joins three other Republican senators who publicly support gay marriage: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Mark Kirk (Ill.).

Today at noon Eastern, the U.S. plays Germany in the World Cup.

world cup

CBS News reports, Team USA: “Everything’s on the line” for Germany match.

 

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the American team so far in the World Cup. The team that, on paper, many pundits didn’t expect to advance, now has a real shot at moving on to the second round. And as CBS News’ Elaine Quijano reports, that fate is hinged on beating or at least coming up even against one of the cup favorites, Germany.

Team USA was greeted with cheers from American fans Wednesday as they arrived in the Brazilian city of Recife.

Players spent the three days between matches recovering and regrouping after a physical first game against Ghana and an emotional tie against Portugal.

“This is the biggest game of a lot of our lives, so any fatigue in our legs will be erased,” said American midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We’ve got to give everything we’ve got and more.”

Team USA began their World Cup run in the so-called “group of death,” but their aggression, attacks and overall stamina on the pitch have defied pundits who originally dismissed their chances of advancing.

“I think some people might be a little bit surprised at our results so far,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Wednesday. “We are by no means any underdog here in this tournament, but we know it’s the biggest hurdle we have to take now with Germany.”

Klinsman suggested that U.S. fans should take a day off work to watch the game, and wrote a letter to bosses asking them to excuse their employee’s absences, reports Reuters.

In the style of a ‘doctor’s note’, Klinsmann addresses employers and asks them to forgive their staff for their absence.

The letter was distributed on social networks by the U.S. Soccer.

“I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause,” wrote Klinsmann.

“The #USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) has a critical World Cup game vs Germany and we will need the full support of the nation if we are to advance to the next round.

“By the way, you should act like a good leader and take the day off as well. Go USA! Signed Jurgen Klinsmann, Head Coach, U.S. National team”.

And from Jake Simpson at the Atlantic: The Surprisingly High Stakes of the U.S.-Germany World Cup Game.

In the wake of the U.S. team’s heartbreaking come-from-ahead draw against Portugal in the World Cup on Sunday, soccer analysts and Twitter users scrambled to figure out the many ways the U.S. can still get to the next round. With a three-point lead over Portugal and Ghana in Group G, the Americans can advance even if they lose their match against Germany at noon Eastern today, depending on the outcome of the Portugal-Ghana game played at the same time. Deadspin has one of the better graphical breakdowns of every potential scenario for the U.S., including the dreaded drawing of lots.

All the focus on permutations and goal-differential scenarios has undercut the importance of today’s game for American soccer. There’s not as much at stake, goes the implication, because we can move ahead even if we lose to Germany. But this is about more than getting to the next round. This is an opportunity for the U.S. to face one of soccer’s elite teams on the biggest stage and prove it can hang with—even beat—any country in this World Cup.

Before the tournament, most people thought it would be an unlikely success for the U.S. just to get out of the so-called Group of Death and to the Round of 16. Now, after beating Ghana and dominating much of the game against Portugal, the U.S. can dream bigger. Beat Germany, and America wins its group for the second straight World Cup, a result nearly unthinkable when the draw was announced in December. Beat Germany, and the U.S. secures a favorable Round of 16 match most likely against Algeria or Russia, rather than a trickier faceoff with sneaky-good Belgium.

Just as important, a win would mean that the Americans have defeated one of soccer’s oligarchs at a World Cup, with both sides trying their best for a victory. That by itself would be a precedent-setting result.

People in Oklahoma are beginning to ask questions

about why their state has been having so many earthquakes all of a sudden, according to the Globe-Gazzette.com.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma residents whose homes and nerves have been shaken by an upsurge in earthquakes want to know what’s causing the temblors — and what can be done to stop them.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Thursday night for a town hall meeting on the issue.

Earthquakes used to be almost unheard of on the vast stretches of prairie that unfold across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, but they’ve become common in recent years.

Oklahoma recorded nearly 150 between January and the start of May. Though most have been too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives, they’ve raised suspicions that the shaking might be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Now after years of being harangued by anxious residents, governments in all three states are confronting the issue, reviewing scientific data, holding public discussions and considering new regulations. Thursday’s meeting in Oklahoma will include the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Gee, do you suppose it could have anything to do with fracking? And what about all that wastewater that has to be disposed of in the fracking process? From Techsonia: Fracking Fluid Spills release Colloids that Pollute Groundwater.

According to a new research, wastewater contains substances that bind to pollutants and their release in soil leads to the ground water contamination as they get along with the water when it is soaked by earth.

In this study, flowback fluid from hydraulic fracturing was analyzed. Colloids are the charged particles and larger than molecules and have the potency to bind to sand grains. With the wastewater, colloids get released in to the ground water.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and was conducted by the researchers at the Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This study was done to determine the remaining colloids amounts in groundwater when the above soil got exposed to flowback fliud in a hydrofracking spills.

Ugh.

One last story . . .

Scientists have unearthed interesting facts about Oldest human faeces show Neanderthals ate vegetables.

Found at a dig in Spain, the ancient excrement showed chemical traces of both meat and plant digestion.

An earlier view of these early humans as purely meat-eating has already been partially discredited by plant remains found in their caves and teeth.

The new paper, in the journal PLOS One, claims to offer the best support to date for an omnivorous diet.

Poo is “the perfect evidence,” said Ms Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands, and the study’s first author, “because you’re sure it was consumed”.

Ms Sistiaga and her colleagues collected a number of samples from the remnants of a 50,000-year-old campfire in the El Salt dig site, a known Neanderthal habitation near Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

So if you bought into the “cave man diet” AKA “Paleolithic diet” recommendations, you were scammed. These early Neanderthals even cooked vegetables and may have used plants for medicinal purposes. Read the whole article at the link. It’s fascinating.

Now . . . what stories are you following today? Are you going to watch the U.S.-Germany game? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.