Sunday Reads: Sinatra Suite and Other Distractions

British ballerina Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes (1948).

British ballerina Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes (1948).

Good Morning

Two days left, and if you are sick of all the campaign commercials on TV…then I think you will agree, we all could use some distractions.

For me this is going into week three of hell, so I have been up to my ass in distractions=QatQi

But I won’t bitch about the TCM blackout again…

So let’s just start the post with a link that got the whole post going.

From HuffPo: A Brief But Stunning Visual History Of Ballet In The 20th Century

As holiday season approaches, visions of sugar-plum fairies inevitably begin dancing in our heads. ‘Tis the time of “The Nutcracker,” and other classic ballet performances that countdown to a whole new season of dance across the world. In honor of the possibilities of the 2014-2015 season, we dug into the photographic archives of Getty and the Associated Press to find the most iconic snapshots of ballerinas and prima donnas over the ages.

Below is a brief but beautiful visual history of the art form, ranging from 1911 to 1999. From Vaslav Nijinsky to Benjamin Millepied, Anna Pavlov to Sylvie Guillem, the collection of vintage portraits gives a mostly black-and-white glimpse into over a century’s worth of ballet greats. Much has changed in terms of representation and body image over the years, and while we can only hope to see more diversity, it certainly shows in these images. Take a look and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Vaslow Nijinsky

Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950) as the faun at the premiere of Ballet Russe’s production of “L’Apres-midi d’un Faune” at the Theatre du Chatelet Paris in May of 1912. (Photo by Edward Gooch/Edward Gooch/Getty Images)

 

It is brief, and they do miss out on a lot of artist…many from the 1970s, when there was a surge in professional dancers that really kicked some ass. So as you can see…I have added to the articles images throughout this thread. Enjoy the pictures of some of the best dancers evah! And be sure to watch the videos too, I bet you have never seen these performances. (Oh yeah, and keep a mental note of that picture of Nijinsky, because we will come back to it in a moment.)

Like this one, from 1984…it is Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite:

Originally broadcast in 1984 over New York’s WNET/Thirteen on “Great Performances,” as part of the “Dance in America” series Baryshnikov Dances Sinatra and More… film. Mikhail Baryshnikov, along with members of American Ballet Theatre, dance three works choreographed by Twyla Tharp: “The Little Ballet,” “Sinatra Suite,” and “Push Comes to Shove.”

 

 

Damn that man could dance…mmmm, and he was gorgeous too.

Another production from the same year that I think you will enjoy…I have a two clips featured  below but you can see the entire show here: Evening at the Met – 1984 – YouTube  100th anniversary celebration at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This performance took place on May 13, 1984.

And that picture of Nijinsky, well…in this 100th anniversary performance, Lillian Gish introduces  Nijinsky’s “Le Spectre de la Rose” danced by Patrick Dupond.


The ballet was first presented in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911. Nijinsky danced The Rose and Tamara Karsavina danced The Young Girl. It was a great success. Spectre became internationally famous for the leap (jump) Nijinsky made through a window at the ballet’s end.

That alone is something you need to see. (Click on Lillian Gish name above…)

Along with that Huffpo link, here is a Buzzfeed post that has some beautiful images: Gorgeous Vintage Photographs Of Ballet Dancers

 

Alexandra Danilova, 1925. Joan Craven/Evening Standard / Getty Images

Alexandra Danilova, 1925. Joan Craven/Evening Standard / Getty Images

Many more at link.

Video time:

First up, two performers that were amazing together:

Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun

My favorite of the bunch has to be Taming of the Shrew…

This is the performance from the 1984  Met show:

 

Here is their version of Romeo and Juliet:

 

 

Next up,

Manon Act I Pas de Deux – Antoinette Sibley & David Wall

 

Giselle Act II Pas de Deux – Alicia Alonso & Jorge Esquivel

 

Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella – Grand Pas de Deux  ”Don Quixote”

 

Le Grand Pas de Quatre 1/2 – Les Ballets Trockadero

 

Dammit…now I have to post some news shit. Okay. But I am going to be quick about it.

10f5c7b51a78bd6683d2cfcbd2bd4b5bBoko Haram: Kidnapped Girls Have Been Married Off, Truce Never Happened

A man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said more than 200 girls kidnapped by the group six months ago had been “married off” to its fighters, contradicting Nigerian government claims they would soon be freed.

Nigeria’s military says it killed Shekau a year ago, and authorities said in September that they had also killed an imposter posting as him in videos. In the latest recording it is hard to see the man’s face as he his filmed from a distance.

But it is likely to raise grave doubts about whether talks between a Boko Haram faction and the government in neighboring Chad will secure the release of the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, in April.

“We have have married them off and they are all in their husbands’ houses,” the man claiming to be Shekau says.

“The over 200 Chibok girls have converted to Islam, which they confess is the best religion. Either their parents accept this and convert too or they can die.”

The majority of the kidnapped girls were Christians.

Leslie Browne

Leslie Browne

Police seek driver in California hit and run that killed 3 trick-or-treaters | Reuters

Detectives continued their search on Saturday for the driver of an SUV who struck and killed three teenage girls trick-or-treating on Halloween in Southern California, and investigators were unsure who was behind the wheel of the vehicle, a police spokesman said.

The three girls, ranging in age from 13 to 15, were in costume and carrying candy bags when they were hit while crossing a street on Friday evening in Santa Ana, about 35 miles (55 km) south of Los Angeles.

Officers found the sports utility vehicle abandoned behind a nearby retailer, said Santa Ana police spokesman Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

Later on Friday night, police went to an address registered as the home of the vehicle’s owner, but the occupants of the house had no connection to the SUV, Bertagna said.

Detectives are unsure where the registered owner of the vehicle might be living, or whether the SUV had been stolen before the hit and run collision, he said.

I wonder if this was some sort of gang initiation thing…those kids were walking in the crosswalk when they were run over. Two of the kids were sisters, twins.

Marianna Tcherkassky. ABT

Marianna Tcherkassky. ABT

This caught my eye via Politics USA: Minority Voter Suppression In North Carolina Witnessed Firsthand

It is harder to vote in North Carolina these days. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court, in Shelby v. Holder, gutted a landmark provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A majority of the justices struck down Article 5 of the Act, which had required federal preapproval of changes to voting practices in southern states. Eviscerating Article 5 effectively halted its protections and set the stage for sweeping efforts to disenfranchise minorities, women, the elderly and students. Six weeks later, emboldened by the Court’s ruling, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the nation’s most restrictive voting law all in the name of “preventing voter fraud.”

Marcia Haydée (born 18 April 1937) and Richard Cragun (5 October 1944 – 6 August 2012)  Stuttgart ballet, 28 November 1976. Photo by Serge Lido.

Marcia Haydée (born 18 April 1937) and Richard Cragun (5 October 1944 – 6 August 2012) Stuttgart ballet, 28 November 1976. Photo by Serge Lido.

Lawsuits challenging the law have been filed by various organizations including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. The ACLU and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sought to have certain provisions of the law stayed until the trial scheduled for summer of 2015. The request for a stay was denied at the district court level, but the district court’s decision was reversed by a three judge panel at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. On October 8, 2014, the Supreme Court struck down the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had stayed many of the 2013 North Carolina’s laws restrictions thus instituting widespread voter suppression.

Read the rest…if you can.

Corina Dumitrescu b. 1970 Bucharest National Opera

Corina Dumitrescu b. 1970 Bucharest National Opera

In connection to the link above… Jim Crow returns | Al Jazeera America

Election officials in 27 states, most of them Republicans, have launched a program that threatens a massive purge of voters from the rolls. Millions, especially black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters, are at risk. Already, tens of thousands have been removed in at least one battleground state, and the numbers are expected to climb, according to a six-month-long, nationwide investigation by Al Jazeera America.

Gelsey Kirkland, Don Quixote

Gelsey Kirkland, Don Quixote

At the heart of this voter-roll scrub is the Interstate Crosscheck program, which has generated a master list of nearly 7 million names. Officials say that these names represent legions of fraudsters who are not only registered but have actually voted in two or more states in the same election — a felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison.

Until now, state elections officials have refused to turn over their Crosscheck lists, some on grounds that these voters are subject to criminal investigation. Now, for the first time, three states — Georgia, Virginia and Washington — have released their lists to Al Jazeera America, providing a total of just over 2 million names.

Gelsey again...

Gelsey again…

Ya got that? 2 miiiiiiiillllllliiiioooon names.

The Crosscheck list of suspected double voters has been compiled by matching names from roughly 110 million voter records from participating states. Interstate Crosscheck is the pet project of Kansas’ controversial Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, known for his crusade against voter fraud.

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey

The three states’ lists are heavily weighted with names such as Jackson, Garcia, Patel and Kim — ones common among minorities, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, fully 1 in 7 African-Americans in those 27 states, plus the state of Washington (which enrolled in Crosscheck but has decided not to utilize the results), are listed as under suspicion of having voted twice. This also applies to 1 in 8 Asian-Americans and 1 in 8 Hispanic voters. White voters too — 1 in 11 — are at risk of having their names scrubbed from the voter rolls, though not as vulnerable as minorities.

If even a fraction of those names are blocked from voting or purged from voter rolls, it could alter the outcome of next week’s electoral battle for control of the U.S. Senate — and perhaps prove decisive in the 2016 presidential vote count.

Antoinette Sibley as Manon and Anthony Dowell as Des Grieux in Manon Photo by Leslie E. Spatt

Antoinette Sibley as Manon and Anthony Dowell as Des Grieux in Manon Photo by Leslie E. Spatt

“It’s Jim Crow all over again,” says the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr. Lowery, now 93, says he recognizes in the list of threatened voters a sophisticated new form of an old and tired tactic. “I think [the Republicans] would use anything they can find. Their desperation is rising.”

You know what that reminds me of, what this redneck says in this scene from Mississippi Burning:

 

 

Pertinent part starts around 0:35 min but the whole damn clip is good.

Juliet Doherty (photo by Joe Toreno for Dance Spirit)

Juliet Doherty (photo by Joe Toreno for Dance Spirit)

One more on race: Spike Lee: Idea that America is a post-racial society under Obama is ‘bullsh*t’

n an interview with Fusion TV, director Spike Lee dismissed the notion that America has become a post-racial society under a black president, calling the belief ‘bullsh*t.”

Speaking with Fusion host Jorge Ramos about race in America, Lee touched upon multiple subjects including the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City and the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Asked by Ramos what he tells his children about race in America, Lee replied “I don’t care who you are, if you’re African-American in this country, you know know what the deal is.”

Prompted to elaborate by Ramos, Lee continued.

Chris Farley. Look at that turnout!

Chris Farley. Look at that turnout!

“That you’re black. It just means that you’re black. And the people who get in trouble are the people who forget they’re black,” Lee explained. “You can’t just think I’m so successful that I’ve reached another realm. And I’m in a so-called post …” at which point Lee asked the audience for help remembering the term ‘post-racial’. “Yeah, that bullsh*t, where now that we have a black, African-American president that race no longer matters. And there are times, even today, it’s hard for me to catch a cab sometimes. In New York City.”

Asked by Ramos why, in 2014, incidents like the deaths of Garner and Brown by police officers still happening, Lee said, “There’s a big division for the police departments, I think, in this country, versus people of color.”

Addressing the death of Garner, Lee noted that the chokehold was banned over twenty years ago.

Alicia Alonso, Prima Ballerina

Alicia Alonso, Prima Ballerina

Lee said that, after seeing the video of Garner being held and choked to death by police officers,  he couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the chokehold that killed the character Radio Raheem (see video below), in his landmark 1989 film, Do The Right Thing.

In the film, the death of Raheem set off rioting and the destruction of the neighborhood.

Video at the link.

More right-wing shit: Arizona School Board Votes To Get Rid Of Textbook Pages That Discuss Abortion

An Arizona school district is making sure that students are not educated about abortion in biology class.

Boris Lipnitzki, Brigitte Bardot in Ballet Class, Paris, 1946

Boris Lipnitzki, Brigitte Bardot in Ballet Class, Paris, 1946

This week, Gilbert Public Schools’ governing board voted to remove pages from an honors biology textbook because the pages talk about mifepristone, a pill that can induce an abortion, reports local outlet 12 News. Members of the board contended that the pages violate a state statute, which prevents school districts from providing instruction that “that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion,” says the outlet.

The specific section in question is titled “Contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancy.” It says that “complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control, but other methods are effective to varying degrees.” The passage, from the seventh edition of Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections, goes on to describe the morning-after pill and mifepristone.

Why can’t these bible thumpers keep it to themselves.

Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly behind the scenes of “An American in Paris”

Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly behind the scenes of “An American in Paris”

The issue was first brought to the board’s attention after the conservative Christian organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote a letter to the district’s superintendent in August, saying that the textbook violates state regulations, reports the outlet. The board voted 3-2 to redact the pages in question, although it is unclear whether the district will remove the specific pages or blacken unwanted passages, says local outlet KTVK-3TV.

Notably, the Arizona Department of Education previously reviewed the textbook and said it was not violating the state statute. An attorney for the district said the same, reports local outlet the East Valley Tribune. As a result, one of the board members who voted against changing the textbook, Lily Tram, called the move an example of censorship.

George Balanchine created Ballo della Regina on the famous ballerina Merrill Ashley. She is known for her speed, clarity of technique and attack in performing this joyous work.

George Balanchine created Ballo della Regina on the famous ballerina Merrill Ashley. She is known for her speed, clarity of technique and attack in performing this joyous work.

And how about this for thumping: FL Supreme Court removes judge for running Christian ministry business from her courtroom

What is it with these people?

There was almost a major accident in NYC: ‘Human Error’ Caused Drill to Hit Train — NYMag

On Thursday, a ten-inch construction drill bit pierced the ceiling of a subway tunnel near 21st Street–Queensbridge station, almost impaling a crowded F train. Luckily, the conductor hit the brakes when he felt the drill touch the train, and no one was hurt. How did this close call occur? According to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, someone screwed up.

Cynthia Gregory

Cynthia Gregory

“At this point in the investigation, the incident appears to have been caused by human error and doesn’t involve equipment malfunction,” Ortiz told the New York Daily News. That human is employed by Griffin Dewatering New England Inc., a contractor working on the East Side Access Project, which will eventually connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central. Ortiz also said that “officials have determined further drilling for the project isn’t needed,” which should be of some comfort to F train riders, who have been forced to put up with a lot lately.

Suzanne Farrell (in Don Quixote with George Balanchine, mid-60s)

Suzanne Farrell (in Don Quixote with George Balanchine, mid-60s)

And in world news:  Argentina asks Spain to arrest 20 Franco-era officials

An Argentine judge has asked Spain to arrest and extradite 20 former officials accused of abuses during the military rule of General Franco.

They cannot be tried in Spain because of an amnesty law but the officials could be prosecuted in Argentina.

Judith Jamison, 1970s, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

Judith Jamison, 1970s, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

The families of alleged victims asked Argentina for help because it has an extradition treaty with Spain.

In April, Spain’s high court refused to extradite to Argentina a former policemen accused of torture.

Judge Maria Servini de Cubria issued the arrest and extradition warrants for two former ministers of General Franco’s regime, and 18 other officials, invoking “universal jurisdiction” – a legal doctrine that authorises judges to try serious rights abused committed in other countries.

Cyd Charisse

Cyd Charisse

Using the doctrine, Spain briefly detained Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.

The two most prominent suspects in Judge Servini’s investigation are Rodolfo Martin Villa, 79, who was Franco’s interior minister, and Jose Uteri Molina, 86, who was housing minister.

Give that a read, it is interesting…I wonder how it will all turn out.

Some of you may have gotten a chance to see this flick on TCM, Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows : moviemorlocks.com – Elevator to the Eyes of Jeanne Moreau

Here is a look at ” The study of mimicry shows a close relationship between scientific psychology and the theatre, says Tiffany Watt-Smith.”   :BBC News – The human copying machine

And our last link…Tower of London poppies: Why they make a fitting memorial – The Independent

Tube closures and warnings of a crush of visitors couldn’t keep half-term crowds from Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies on Saturday.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

It is easy to visualise each poppy as a death.

…shocking splashes of colour in the poppies installation – the bloody wave over the walls, the crimson stream flowing from a window, the narrow ribbon of red in the moat. But nothing prepared early spectators for what followed. In box after box, they arrived, ceramic flowers and stalks, assembled at random heights by volunteers, many too young to have known a relative involved in the First World War.

Every evening, when the Last Post was sounded and the names of the dead were read at dusk, the installation looked complete. And then came another vivid tide, and another, and another, relentless.

6dd3f610bd5544c30e212a10a6365444How do you remember 888,246 lives? We cannot take in the numbers, though we have seen enough news bulletins to know about mass deaths. To single out one soldier’s story helps us focus, but overlooks the rest. Live footage, fictional re-creations, cannot help us with the scale of loss. But it is easy to visualise each poppy at the Tower as a death, for we have grown up associating the flower with remembrance. We do not need to see a single face or coffin to feel a lump in the throat: we know how to love and grieve.

A solemn ending I know…but it is the beginning of November. The weather is dreary and cold and damp, we even had snow in Banjoville this weekend. And as for the Fall Foilage? There was none this year.   The leaves just turned to brown. Very depressing and such a let down. I hope it is not a premonition of things to come this Tuesday. We will be here to live blog the Election Day event, so please stop by  the blog. Otherwise, if you are around today, leave a comment or thought…and have a pleasant day.

Below are all the pictures in this post, plus a few I could not fit so give them a look if you like…


Monday Reads

Owl reading

Good Morning!!

There’s not a lot of good news to report this morning except that the Miami Heat lost the NBA championship last night, cementing LeBron James’ reputation as a choker. He couldn’t win in Cleveland, and he can’t lead in Miami. He’s just all about LeBron.

The situation in Iraq is getting more dire. I’m sure you heard about the reported mass executions of Iraqi troops by ISIS militants yesterday. From The New York Times:

BAGHDAD — Wielding the threat of sectarian slaughter, Sunni Islamist militants claimed on Sunday that they had massacred hundreds of captive Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces, posting grisly pictures of a mass execution in Tikrit as evidence and warning of more killing to come.

The possible mass killing came as militants cemented control of the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after two days of fierce clashes with Iraqi troops, residents and senior security officials said. The city came under mortar attack, sending residents fleeing toward Sinjar in the north, which is under control of Kurdish pesh merga troops. Residents said the militants freed dozens of prisoners.

BAGHDAD — Wielding the threat of sectarian slaughter, Sunni Islamist militants claimed on Sunday that they had massacred hundreds of captive Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces, posting grisly pictures of a mass execution in Tikrit as evidence and warning of more killing to come.

The possible mass killing came as militants cemented control of the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after two days of fierce clashes with Iraqi troops, residents and senior security officials said. The city came under mortar attack, sending residents fleeing toward Sinjar in the north, which is under control of Kurdish pesh merga troops. Residents said the militants freed dozens of prisoners.

Lovely. “War Crimes” hardly seems strong enough to characterize such horrendous acts.

In an atmosphere where there were already fears that the militants’ sudden advance near the capital would prompt Shiite reprisal attacks against Sunni Arab civilians, the claims by ISIS were potentially explosive. And that is exactly the group’s stated intent: to stoke a return to all-out sectarian warfare that would bolster its attempts to carve out a Sunni Islamist caliphate that crosses borders through the region.

The sectarian element of the killings may put more pressure on the Obama administration to aid Iraq militarily. In fact, the militants seemed to be counting on it. A pronouncement on Sunday by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had a clear message for the United States: “Soon we will face you, and we are waiting for this day.”

Owl2

CNN reports that some U.S. embassy staff in Iraq have been moved to another location.

The Iraqi air force struck back at the militant group ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, killing more than 200 militants, Iraqi state TV reported Monday morning. The air raids took place in Saqlawiyah, northwest of Fallujah, according to a graphic run by state TV.

ISIS has been ruthlessly fighting to take control of Iraq and has apparently posted chilling photos on jihadi Internet forums seeming to show the executions of Iraqi security forces.

ISIS, an al Qaeda splinter group, wants to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, that would stretch from Iraq into northern Syria. The group has had substantial success in Syria battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces.

According to The Washington Post, the insurgents have captured American equipment and may be in possession of “advanced radios” that would make them much more effective.

Iraq’s security forces, propped up by American equipment and weapons, have been routed by a contingent of insurgents bent on extending their territory from strongholds in Syria deep into Iraq. As Mosul and other cities fell, the West saw a host of images of once-American Humvees and helicopters firmly in the hands of its enemies.

Outrage followed shock, as years of effort in Iraq by the U.S. military seemed to unravel in a coup-de-grace that played out over the Internet. Analysts speculated that the newly seized weapons and vehicles could turn fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria into an even stauncher foe.

Yet, among the towed Black Hawk helicopters, Howitzer cannons and Humvees plastered all over social media lies an unseen weapon that could make the ISIS fighters exponentially more lethal if employed properly: advanced radio equipment.

Read more at the link.

Owl3

Iran is sending in troops to aid the insurgents, according to CNN.

What’s happening in Iraq now has all the makings of a civil war — and a full-blown foreign policy crisis. The United States is mulling direct talks with Iran while it boosts security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with military personnel.

Why Iran? In recent days, Iran has sent hundreds of troops to fight alongside Iraqi government security forces in Diyala province, a senior security official in Baghdad told CNN.

The article summarizes the latest events on the ground as of early this morning. Finally, an editorial in The Independent UK states bluntly that

The outside world, starting with the United States, cannot hope to reverse the course of events in Iraq by intervening on the ground, and President Barack Obama was right to rule out US troops going back there.

However, that doesn’t mean taking up an observer’s seat as the region descends into ever greater chaos. Washington should encourage the tentative rapprochement between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, both of which are starting to see just how dangerous the Sunni-Shia power struggle is becoming to each of them. We should do our utmost to shore up the defences of vulnerable but still stable states in the region, such as Jordan.

Western countries could also afford to be more generous in helping to address the humanitarian aspect of the latest crisis. Britain has so far offered an extra £3m to help tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the advance of Isis, most of whom are now camping in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq. It hardly seems an adequate gesture.

With any luck, the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq will at some point turn against their self-styled deliverers in Isis. In that case, it is vital that the Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad comes under pressure to keep the door open to talks about some kind of federal option for the Sunnis, and for the Kurds. It is late in the day for Iraq even to try to play with the federalisation option, but just possibly some kind of gossamer-thin state can be salvaged from the current mess. Right now, none of the options looks good, but despair is not the answer.

In other news,

Owl4

Chelsea Manning has broken her silence with an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times in which she harshly criticizes the methods used by the military to control press coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and–presumably–the U.S. media’s acquiescence to that control. For example,

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.

Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.

Read much more at the link.

Speaking of media co-option, the NYT has an interesting op-ed by long-time reporter David Carr about the media’s failure to anticipate Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat in Virginia’s primary last week.

It’s now clear why the primary defeat of the House majority leader,Eric Cantor, came so completely out of the blue last week: Beltway blindness that put a focus on fund-raising, power-brokering and partisan back-and-forth created a reality distortion field that obscured the will of the people.

But that affliction was not Mr. Cantor’s alone; it is shared by the political press. Reporters and commentators might want to pause and wipe the egg off their faces before they go on camera to cluck-cluck about how Mr. Cantor, Republican of Virginia, missed signs of the insurgency that took him out. There was a lot of that going around, and the big miss by much of the political news media demonstrates that news organizations are no less a prisoner of Washington’s tunnel vision than the people who run for office.

All politics is local, which may explain why The Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Chesterfield Observer both took David Brat’s Tea Party challenge to Mr. Cantor seriously, but few of the publications inside the District that follow the majority leader’s every wiggle and wobble sensed that he was leaving the home fires dangerously unattended….

The same forces that keep politicians penned up within a few blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue work on journalists as well. No one wants to stray from the white-hot center of power for fear of being stuck in some forsaken locale when something big happens in Washington — which is why it has become one of the most overcovered places on earth.

This problem is compounded by the “diminution” of regional newspapers. Read more at the link.

Owl5

I haven’t had time to work through the whole thing yet, but Alec MacGillis has a long profile of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that seems worth a read: The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A journey through the poisonous, racially divided world that produced a Republican star.

I’ll end with some exciting science news from The Boston Globe: Boston-Led Team Developing ‘Bionic Pancreas’ for Diabetics.

Scientists have made big progress on a ‘‘bionic pancreas’’ to free some people with diabetes from the daily ordeal of managing their disease. A wearable, experimental device passed a real-world test, constantly monitoring blood sugar and automatically giving insulin or a sugar-boosting drug as needed, doctors said Sunday.

The device improved blood-sugar control more than standard monitors and insulin pumps did when tested for five days on 20 adults and 32 teens. Unlike other artificial pancreases in development that just correct high blood sugar, this one also can fix too-low sugar, mimicking what a natural pancreas does.

The device was developed at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University. Results were featured Sunday at an American Diabetes Association conference in San Francisco and were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

More from NPR: Father Devises A ‘Bionic Pancreas’ To Help Son With Diabetes. Very interesting!

I have a few more links that I’ll post in comments.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating article by Jill Lepore about guns in America that I think everyone should read: Battleground America: One nation, under the gun. It’s long, but well worth reading. Here’s just a tiny excerpt:

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while, in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. One reason that gun ownership is declining, nationwide, might be that high-school shooting clubs and rifle ranges at summer camps are no longer common.

Although rates of gun ownership, like rates of violent crime, are falling, the power of the gun lobby is not. Since 1980, forty-four states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection. (Five additional states had these laws before 1980. Illinois is the sole holdout.) A federal ban on the possession, transfer, or manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons, passed in 1994, was allowed to expire in 2004. In 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law, an extension of the so-called castle doctrine, exonerating from prosecution citizens who use deadly force when confronted by an assailant, even if they could have retreated safely; Stand Your Ground laws expand that protection outside the home to any place that an individual “has a right to be.” Twenty-four states have passed similar laws.

I hadn’t realized that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin just one day before the school shootings at Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio. Isn’t it amazing that we heard all about that shooting right away and it was old news by the time the corporate media began reporting on Trayvon’s death?

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, and it seems America has changed very little, probably largely because of NRA lobbying as well as ALEC’s “model legislation” writing services.

Of course no one could help hearing about the crude and tasteless behavior on display at the NRA convention last weekend. Executive VP Wayne LaPierre even had the gall to complain about media coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting. At HuffPo, Dean Obeidallah asks why.

Did Mr. LaPierre offer any sympathy to Trayvon Martin’s family? No.

Instead, he chose to denounce the media for their coverage of the case, alleging that the media’s: “… dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.”

What makes Mr. La Pierre’s comments especially callous is that they were made at the annual NRA convention which was being held this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has the unenviable distinction of being the city with the second highest rate in the country for youth being killed by guns. Indeed, the gunshot murder rate for 10 to 19 years old in St. Louis is more than three times the average for larger cities according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yesterday the LA Times published photos of American troops in Afghanistan posing with body parts of dead suicide bombers.

Two photos of incidents from a 2010 deployment were published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times. In one, the hand of a corpse is propped on the shoulder of a paratrooper. In another, the disembodied legs of a suicide bomber are displayed by grinning soldiers and Afghan police.

These are the “hero” troops that we are constantly told we have to support and be grateful to. Have these young people been warped by America’s immoral wars? Or are they products of America’s vicious gun culture? I don’t know the answer, just asking.

American officials weren’t happy with the LA Times for publishing the photos and tried to stop them from doing it. Although the Obama administration and military leaders fell over themselves condemning the actions of these troops,

At the same time, Pentagon and White House officials expressed disappointment that the photos had been made public. The Pentagon had asked The Times not to publish the photos, citing fears that they would trigger a backlash against U.S. forces.

Speaking to reporters during a meeting of NATO allies in Brussels, Panetta said:

“This is war. And I know that war is ugly and violent. And I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people.”

Tough shit. Haven’t we seen enough war crimes by now? This war and the war in Iraq are just plain evil. Get these kids out of Afghanistan, and let’s hope we can prevent a majority of them from acting out violently or joining the growing number of military suicides when they get back home.

Mother Jones reports that ALEC is begging right wing bloggers to rescue them from mean old Common Cause, Color of Change, and other liberal groups who have been convincing ALEC’s donors to withdraw their support.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC’s “discriminatory” voter ID bills and controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida.

To push back, ALEC has turned to the conservative blogosphere for help. As PR Watch reported, Caitlyn Korb, ALEC’s director of external relations, told attendees at a Heritage Foundation “Bloggers Briefing” on Tuesday that the campaign against ALEC was “part of a wider effort to shut all of us down.” She asked the bloggers for “any and all institutional support” in ALEC’s fight against progressive groups, especially when it came to social media. “We’re getting absolutely killed in social media venues—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,” she said. “Any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don’t know much about this fight but are seeing us really get heavily attacked with very little opposition.”

Korb educated the bloggers with a handout listing ALEC’s positions on a range of issues. PR Watch, one of ALEC’s loudest critics, described the handout as “riddled with errors.”

Check out the list at the above link.

Joshua Holland has an excellent piece at Alternet: Freedom from a Dead-End Life: True Liberty Means Defeating the Right-Wing’s Nightmare Vision for America.

Last week, Mitt Romney summed up the Right’s rhetorical fluff as well as anyone when he told the National Rifle Association that “freedom is the victim of unbounded government appetite.” It was an unremarkable comment, so accustomed are we to hearing the Right – a movement that historically opposed women’s sufferage and black civil rights and still seeks to quash workers’ right to organize and gay and lesbian Americans’ right to marry– claim to be defenders of our liberties….

Dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that “freedom” for the Right offers most of us anything but. It’s the freedom for companies to screw their workers, pollute, and otherwise operate free of any meaningful regulations to protect the public interest. It’s about the wealthiest among us being free from the burden of paying a fair share of the taxes that help finance a smoothly functioning society.

The flip side is that programs that assure working Americans a decent existence are painted as a form of tyranny approaching fascism. The reality is that they impinge only on our God-given right to live without a secure social safety net. It’s the freedom to go bankrupt if you can’t afford to treat an illness; the liberty to spend your golden years eating cat food if you couldn’t sock away enough for a decent retirement.

It’s another long read, but well worth the time.

At FDL, Kevin Gosztola writes about yesterday’s unanimous SCOTUS that multinational corporations can’t be sued for torturing and/or killing people.

The US Supreme Court unanimously decided that foreign political organizations and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or extrajudicial killing of persons abroad under an anti-torture law passed in 1992. The law only gives people the right to sue “an individual,” “who acted under the authority of a foreign nation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the family of a US citizen, Azzam Rahim, who was tortured and killed in the Palestinian Territory by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) intelligence officers. It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who President Barack Obama appointed to the Supreme Court, that spoke for the decision. She explained the text of the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991 “convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this branch to do otherwise.”

Apparently, corporations are only “people” for purposes of corrupting electoral politics, but when they commit crimes they are no longer considered “individuals.” Gosztola also calls attention to the fact that Chief Justice Roberts actually laughed at the arguments of the Rahim family’s attorney Jeffrey Fisher.

Mr. Fisher did what he could with what the justices seemed to think was an exceptionally weak hand.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. summarized Mr. Fisher’s position: “You are saying, ‘Well, we want a term that is going to include individual persons and organizations but not state organizations.’ And the only term that fits perfectly is ‘individual.’ ”

“Exactly,” Mr. Fisher said. “That’s our argument.”

Chief Justice Roberts was incredulous. “Really?” he asked, to laughter in the courtroom, which the chief justice joined.

Finally, Dakinikat sent me this from The New York Times: Vatican orders crackdown on American nuns

The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


It’s Saturday!

Happy Saturday Sky Dancers!! It’s a beautiful fall day here in Indiana, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Boston. I’ll be taking off in a couple of days and I hope to be home by Tuesday or Wednesday. My mom is going along for the ride so she can hang out with her youngest grandsons for awhile. It will be fun, because she’ll be there over Halloween. But enough about my boring life–let’s get to the news.

This story is a couple of days old, but still worth reading. Via BDBlue at Corrente, Which GOP candidate do you think has raised the most money from Wall Street?

Barack Obama!

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.

And get this–Obama has raised nearly twice as much as Romney from the Mittster’s old firm, Bain Capital! So don’t believe all those stories in the media about the Wall Street titans switching to Mitt.

Here’s another “breaking news” story from Forbes: US Businesses Not Being Strangled By Regulation And Taxation, World Bank Says. Gee, no kidding? But the Republicans say that’s the main cause of our economic problems, don’t they?

The World Bank uses indicators such as time spent to set up a business to getting credit, among other things, in benchmarking the 183 countries it ranks in “Doing Business”. The report measures and tracks changes in the regulations applied to domestic companies in 11 areas in their life cycle–such as investors rights, taxation, cross border transactions, legality and enforcement of contracts and bankruptcy law. A fundamental premise of doing business is that economic activity requires good rules that are transparent and accessible to all, not just big business. Such regulations should be efficient, the World Bank states, striking a balance between safeguarding some important aspects of the business environment and avoiding distortions that impose unreasonable costs on businesses. “Where business regulation is burdensome and competition limited, success depends more on whom you know than on what you can do. But where regulations are relatively easy to comply with and accessible to all who need to use them, anyone with talent and a good idea should be able to start and grow a business (legally),” the World Bank said.

Where does the supposed regulation and taxation crippled U.S. stand in the rankings? It is number four, trailing behind New Zealand (3), Hong Kong (2) and Singapore (1).

What it looks like from the research desks at one of the most powerful and elite multilateral institutions on the planet is a U.S. that does not have the government in its way, but a U.S. whose government is more out of the way than it is in every other major economy on earth, including mainland China.

Wow, I wonder if Congressman Paul Ryan reads Forbes? Naaaah… probably too far left for him. And speaking of Ryan, he appeared at a town hall meeting in Muskego, WI yesterday and made a complete ass of himself as usual. From Think Progress:

During a town hall today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked by Matthew Lowe, a student, why the GOP wants to cut Pell Grants. Ryan responded by saying that the program is “unsustainable,” before telling Lowe that he should be working three jobs and taking out student loans to pay for college, instead of using Pell Grants:

LOWE: I come from a very middle-class family and under President Obama, I get $5,500 per year to pay for school, which doesn’t come close to covering all of the funding, but it helps ease the burden. Under your plan, you cut it by 15 percent. I was just curious why you would cut a grant that goes directly to the middle- and lower-class people that need it the most.

RYAN: ‘Cause Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.

That’s funny. I read that Ryan used his father’s Social Security survivor benefits to put himself through college. I’d like to see some documentation on those three jobs he claims he worked while attending classes, writing papers, and studying for exams. Besides, I’ll bet the unemployment rate for college-age kids wasn’t at depression levels back then.

And speaking of paying for college, here’s an interesting piece at Truthout by Ellen Brown: Can the Fed Prevent the Next Crisis by Eliminating Interest on Student Loan Debt?

Among the demands of the Wall Street protesters is student debt forgiveness – a debt “jubilee.” Occupy Philly has a “Student Loan Jubilee Working Group,” and other groups are studying the issue. Commentators say debt forgiveness is impossible. Who would foot the bill? But there is one deep pocket that could pull it off – the Federal Reserve. In its first quantitative easing program (QE1), the Fed removed $1.3 trillion in toxic assets from the books of Wall Street banks. For QE4, it could remove $1 trillion in toxic debt from the backs of millions of students.

The economy would only be the better for it, as was shown by the GI Bill, which provided virtually free higher education for returning veterans, along with low-interest loans for housing and business. The GI Bill had a sevenfold return. It was one of the best investments Congress ever made.

There are arguments against a complete student debt write-off, including that it would reward private universities that are already charging too much and it would unfairly exclude other forms of debt from relief. But the point here is that it could be done and it (or some similar form of consumer “jubilee”) would represent a significant stimulus to the economy.

According to Brown, student loan debt is “the next Black Swan.”

Here’s another stupid Republican story for you. Eric Cantor was scheduled to give a speech yesterday at the elite Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Cantor was to speak on what Republicans plan to do about income inequality. The school was so excited that they opened the talk to the public. In addition, there was to be a protest by several groups, including Occupy Philly.

Guess what Cantor did? He wimped out and cancelled. ROFLOL! From the LA Times:

Cantor was scheduled to speak on income inequity at a lecture hosted by the Wharton business school. The Virginia Republican’s office said he called off the speech after learning that protesters planned to rally outside and attendance would not be limited to students and others affiliated with the school.

Ron Ozio, director of media relations at University of Pennsylvania, said the business school “deeply regrets” that the event was canceled.

“The university community was looking forward to hearing Majority Leader Cantor’s comments on important public issues, and we hope there will be another opportunity for him to speak on campus,” Ozio said in a statement. “The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed. We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader’s office on the staging of his presentation.”

This is pretty disgusting: Libyans line up to see Gaddafi’s body on display; groups call for probe into death

International human rights groups called Friday for an investigation into the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi as gory new videos showed him being spat at and punched by revolutionaries and as skepticism mounted about official claims that he was shot in crossfire after being captured.

The new cellphone videos cast a shadow over the revolutionaries even as they were celebrating the end of their eight-month struggle to wrest control of the country. NATO had backed the rebels in the name of shielding pro-democracy civilians from Gaddafi’s brutality.

“The government version certainly does not fit with the reality we have seen on the ground,” said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who has been investigating the capture of Gaddafi in his home town of Sirte. Amnesty International warned that the killing could be a war crime.

Why do I suspect the U.S. Government gave the go-ahead for Gaddafi to be executed, just like Osama bin Laden? You might want to read Joseph Cannon’s take on this one.

Finally, late last night the Volker Rule was number 1 in Google’s top stories. From the NYT:

When Paul Volcker called for new rules in 2009 to curb risk-taking by banks, and thus avoid making taxpayers liable in the future for the kind of reckless speculation that caused the financial crisis and resulting bailout, he outlined his proposal in a three-page letter to the president.

Last year, when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act went to Congress, the Volcker Rule that it contained took up 10 pages.

Last week, when the proposed regulations for the Volcker Rule finally emerged for public comment, the text had swelled to 298 pages and was accompanied by more than 1,300 questions about 400 topics.

Wall Street firms have spent countless millions of dollars trying to water down the original Volcker proposal and have succeeded in inserting numerous exemptions. Now they’re claiming it’s too complex to understand and too costly to adopt.

Gee, what a surprise. I wonder how many of those millions were taxpayer dollars?

So…what are you reading and blogging about today?


Donald Rumsfeld’s Book Event Spurs Protests in Boston

Former Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stopped by Boston on Monday night to sell his book. The event was disrupted by protesters who heckled Rumsfeld and attempted to make a citizen’s arrest for war crimes. From WCVB Channel 5 in Boston:

Several protesters tried to disrupt a forum with Rumsfeld at the Old South Meeting House, shouting and holding up signs as most of the audience shouted and booed them down.

“I went down in front and looked Donald Rumsfeld in the eye and said, ‘I’m making a citizen’s arrest,’ said protester Nate Goldschlag, a member of the group Veterans for Peace, who had to buy Rumsfeld’s book to get into the event.

“He lied us into Iraq. He lied about weapons of mass destruction. He lied about Saddam Hussein being involved in 9/11,” Goldschlag said.

Four demonstrators were dragged out of the hall by police and one person was arrested outside the building for assaulting an officer with a bullhorn, police said.

The event was sponsored by right wing talk radio station WRKO, which explains why most of the 300 people there were supportive of Rumsfeld. Unfortunately for the protesters, they had to purchase copies of Rummy’s book in order to get into the event.

It did my heart good to learn about this little demonstration–sorry I’m a little late finding this story. Here are some videos from and about the event:


Thursday Reads: Lying Politicians vs Truly Egregious Behavior; Crazy Republicans; and More

Good Morning!!

I’m sick and tired of the Weiner story, and I know most of you are too; but I just want to highlight a few reactions that I found interesting–all G rated.

I love this Lambert post, especially this part:

ZOMG!!!!!!! Offensive behavior online!!!!!!!! [Too tired for the riffs about the pearl clutching and the fainting couch.]

Anyhow, so Weiner’s an asshole. And so what. As William Gibson said:

“Fortunately,” he said, “it isn’t about who’s an asshole. If it were, our work would never be done.”

Love that quote! As Lambert points out, these “ethics” investigations never seem to happen to people who engage in torture, election fraud, or handing over the U.S. treasury to banksters.

Speaking of assholes, Andrew Breitbart claims he still has one more “lewd picture” of Weiner that he hasn’t released–and it’s not the one going around today. Talk about an evil human being. Breitbart is disgusting. If you read to the end of that piece, you’ll find out Breitbart’s notions of female sexuality.

One person who seems to have a little sympathy for Weiner is Charlie Rangel.

“His most serious problem is keeping his wife and family together at this time,” Rangel said in an interview on Fox Business Network set to air Wednesday evening.

Rangel did not suggest that Weiner resign. Here’s what he had to say about “ethics” investigations:

“They may do that, and God knows, I know what people feel they have to do as politicians to protect themselves. It’s totally unbelievable, but it happens,” Rangel said. “They love you, but they love themselves better and they make political decisions not to how it affects you, but to how it affects them and their reelection.”

They are all slime, yet they presume to sit in judgment on others. What Weiner did makes me sick, but the rest of them make me even sicker.

Melanie Sloan of CREW says there is a double-standard operating in the many calls for Weiner to resign.

“This is a massive overreaction and I don’t understand it,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

She points out that Charlie Rangel was censured for serious ethical breaches, yet was not forced to resign.

Sloan explained that the mounting pressure on Weiner may stem in part from the early precedent set by House Speaker John Boehner when, at the first sign of sexual misconduct, he urged Reps. Mark Souder (R, Ind.) and Chris Lee (R, N.Y.) to resign, even though their behavior didn’t appear to involve any abuse of their office.

“A lot of people really hate Weiner, too,” she said, referring to Weiner’s colleagues in the House, some of whom are said to have been rankled by his personality and frequent media appearances.

What about Weiner’s denials before he owned up?

“A politician lying is not that unusual,” Sloan said. “If the new standard is that politicians are out the second they lie to us, then a lot of politicians could be gone.”

How true.

As egregious as Weiner’s behavior was, it wasn’t a crime. Here’s an example of truly egregious behavior: U.S. pediatrician on trial for raping toddlers

A Delaware pediatrician went on trial for allegedly raping or sexually exploiting 86 young patients, all girls except one and almost all younger than three.

Earl Bradley has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts against him, and sat quietly in gray prison scrubs as a veteran state trooper spent hours Tuesday describing the doctor’s cache of home videos of the assaults.

They were so “horrible,” testified state police detective Scott Garland, a specialist in forensic computer evidence. “They were beyond anything I had ever witnessed. Nothing prepared me for it.”

And then there’s this: Casey Antony told a fellow inmate that she used chloroform to knock out her daughter Caylee when she (Casey) wanted to party.

And how about this?

Gaddafi bought Viagra-like pills for troops to attack women

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he may ask for a new charge of mass rape to be made against Gaddafi following the new evidence. The chief International Criminal Court prosecutor is expecting a decision from judges within days on his request for crimes against humanity charges against the Libyan leader.

“Now we are getting some information that Gaddafi himself decided to rape and this is new,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo told reporters.

He said there were reports of hundreds of women attacked in some areas of Libya, which is in the grip of a months-long internal rebellion.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said there was evidence that the Libyan authorities bought “Viagra-type” medicines and gave them to troops as part of the official rape policy.

“They were buying containers to enhance the possibility to rape women,” he said.

“We had doubts at the beginning but now we are more convinced that he decided to punish using rapes,” the prosecutor said. “It was very bad — beyond the limits, I would say.”

Let’s move on to the horrors of the Republican 2012 presidential field. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, voters aren’t ready for a Mormon president.

Sorry, Mitt. John Huntsman is also a Mormon. I guess voters don’t mind looney religionists as long as they claim to be Christians though. Have you heard about Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan?

Pawlenty calls for sweeping tax cuts dubbed by some as “breathtaking.” He’d cut the corporate income tax from 35 percent to 15 percent, and eliminate taxes on capital gains, interest income, dividends and inheritances. There would be two tiers of personal income taxes — 10 percent and 25 percent.

Pawlenty would require Congress to reauthorize all federal regulations and radically reshape the federal government by privatizing services such as the U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak. He also would support an ill-advised balanced budget amendment. You could almost hear the corporate special interests uttering “check, check and check!” as the South St. Paul truck driver’s son ticked off items on their wish lists and then one-upped them.

Just reading about it makes me want to run out into the street screaming and tearing my hair out.

Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are supposedly feuding now because Ed Rollins said that Bachman is more “serious” than Palin. I had to really look around to find an article that didn’t call it a “cat fight.” Here’s Rollins, quoted by NPR:

“Well I’m going to work for Michele Bachmann if she runs. That’s the one that intrigues me the most at this point and I think to a certain extent she’s articulate, she’s a conservative. She’s got a great story to tell. She’s on the Intelligence Committee. You know, she’s unknown to the national audience, but she’ll become known and that’s the candidacy that I’m going to work for if she runs.

“Sarah has not been serious over the last couple of years. She got the vice-presidential thing handed to her. She didn’t go to work in the sense of trying gain more substance. She gave up her governorship. You know, I think Michele Bachmann and others have worked hard. She has been a leader of the Tea Party, which is a very important element here. She’s an attorney, done extraordinary things with family values and what have you. So I think she will connect. She’s a great, great communicator and I would say in the race today she is probably the best communicator.”

Kinda takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Now check this out: Santorum Calls Abortion Exceptions To Protect Health Of The Mother ‘Phony’

Longshot GOP presidential hopeful and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum stomped for votes in Iowa on Tuesday, trumpeting his “culture wars” message. A longtime anti-abortion activist, Santorum is selling himself as the leading social conservative in a crowded field. Yesterday in West Des Moines, he made an appearance at a “crisis pregnancy center” called Informed Choices that tries to talk women out of having abortions. Santorum said that he “separates [himself] from the rest of the pack” and criticized the other candidates for simply “checking the box” on anti-abortion issues.

When discussing his track record as a champion of the partial birth abortion ban, Santorum dismissed exceptions other senators wanted to carve out to protect the life and health of mothers, calling such exceptions “phony”:

SANTORUM: When I was leading the charge on partial birth abortion, several members came forward and said, “Why don’t we just ban all abortions?” Tom Daschle was one of them, if you remember. And Susan Collins, and others. They wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective.

In other stupid Republican news, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had a painting of poor and homeless children removed from the governor’s mansion. From Mother Jones:

Walker has made headlines again after he removed a painting depicting three Wisconsin children—one had been homeless, one came from low-income family, and a third who had lost family members in a drunk-driving accident. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the painting was one of numerous pieces of art commissioned by the fund that operates the governor’s mansion—works that were intended to remind the governor of the constituents he or she represents.

Here’s the Journal Sentinel on the painting by artist David Lenz:

In an interview, Lenz said he carefully selected the three children portrayed in “Wishes in the Wind.” The African-American girl, featured in a Journal Sentinel column on homelessness, spent three months at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission with her mother. The Hispanic girl is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. And the boy’s father and brother were killed by a drunken driver in 2009.

“The homeless, central city children and victims of drunk drivers normally do not have a voice in politics,” Lenz explained in an email. “This painting was an opportunity for future governors to look these three children in the eye, and I hope, contemplate how their public policies might affect them and other children like them.”

He added: “I guess that was a conversation Governor Walker did not want to have.”

In other news, at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, 77 army cadets were struck by lightening and hospitalized. Let’s hope they’ll all be okay. The weather sure is strange this year!

I’ll end with this interesting story from the LA Times: Autism linked to hundreds of genetic mutations.

Autism is not caused by one or two gene defects but probably by hundreds of different mutations, many of which arise spontaneously, according to research that examined the genetic underpinnings of the disorder in more than 1,000 families.

The findings, reported in three studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, cast autism disorders as genetically very complex, involving many potential changes in DNA that may produce, essentially, different forms of autism.

The affected genes, however, appear to be part of a large network involved in controlling the development of synapses, the critical junctions between nerve cells that allow them to communicate, according to one of the three studies.

Although the work will have no immediate value to patients or their families, the insights provide a wealth of targets to pursue in developing treatments for the disorder, scientists said. Understanding the genetic causes of autism spectrum disorders may promote more accurate diagnoses, and research on synapse formation and function could yield treatments that address the flow of signals between nerve cells.

What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share!!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Once again, the Osama bin Laden story is eclipsing just about everything else. Nevertheless, I’ll do what I can to search out a few non-Osama links for your reading pleasure. But first, the latest on the the media obsession du jour.

You’ve probably heard about the reports that bin Laden was first captured alive and then shot execution style in front of his 12-year-old daughter. At least that is how she described the events to Pakistani officials who are currently holding her and other survivors of the raid. From the Guardian:

The girl, who was found at the scene of the raid by Pakistani security services, is being cared for at a military hospital having been wounded in the attack. She has been questioned about the sequence of events during the raid last weekend.

The official said Pakistani intelligence services, who are holding 11 other survivors of the deadly raid on Bin Laden’s Pakistani hiding place, would not allow their interrogation by US officials.

“That would occur only if there was written assent from their country of origin. We are yet to receive any request to my knowledge, but given the [critical] statements coming out of Washington and the fact that [the raid] was not an operation we were involved in, we would not accept,” he said.

Hmmm…sound like the Pakistani official is slightly miffed about the way the U.S. handled this.

At least 10 people were left alive at the end of the attack, which saw Bin Laden killed in an upstairs room of the three-storey house where he had been living. Hamza, one of the al-Qaida leader’s sons, was killed. His body was removed with that of his father by the assault teams.

The survivors include eight children and two adults, both women. One is Bin Laden’s fifth wife, a 29-year-old Yemeni, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah who married the al-Qaida leader around 11 years ago in Afghanistan. The other is understood to be a Yemeni doctor in her 30s whose passport indicates that she arrived by legal means in the region sometime between 2000 and 2006, when the document expired.

I still haven’t heard any word about what happened to the son’s body. Have you? It does seem the administration still has some explaining to do. Justin Elliott of Salon tried to get some clarification.

Legitimate doubt has been cast on the official narrative of the raid ever since the Obama administration changed major details of what it claims happened. (A Pentagon official, for example, said Monday that bin Laden was firing a gun at U.S. forces from behind a human shield when he was killed. Now the White House says he was not armed and there was no human shield.)

The possibility that bin Laden was captured was raised in a report by an Arab news agency citing Pakistani officials describing an interview with bin Laden’s young daughter, who was apparently at the compound:

The daughter has claimed that she watched as her father was captured alive and shot before being dragged to a US military helicopter, Arabic news network al-Arabiya quoted Pakistani officials as saying.

Elliott also notes that President Obama said during an appearance on Monday night that the top secret operation had “resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden.” He got no answers from the White House, but the CIA told NBC that the 12-year-old’s eyewitness testimony is completely wrong. They deny that bin Laden was “captured” before being killed and they deny putting his son’s body in a helicopter and taking it away.

More problems for the administration: The Telegraph reveals that there is no live video of the attack on the bin Laden compound.

A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.

In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: “Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.

“We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”

Mr Panetta also told the network that the US Navy Seals made the final decision to kill bin Laden rather than the president.

Hmmm….that’s a bit troubling.

At FDL, David Swanson is very troubled by the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to him, Osama bin Lynched. I’ll say one thing for Swanson: the guy can write. I recommend reading his blog just for the pleasure of reading some good writing, if nothing else.

Here is some more evidence that our government is being run by silly adolescents. Several media outlets have reported that a number of Senators, including Saxby Chambliss, Kelly Ayotte, and Scott Brown, claimed to have seen the graphic photos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. It turns out all they saw was the same fake doctored photo that everyone else saw all over the internet yesterday. The Boston Globe reports:

US Senator Scott Brown said in several televised interviews today that he had seen perhaps the most controversial and closely guarded photos in the world: those showing Osama bin Laden’s dead body.

Brown, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested he had viewed them as part of an official briefing, and he argued that they were too graphic to be released to the public and could enflame terrorists.

Oops.

Brown later acknowledged that he had fallen victim to a hoax, apparently the same doctored images that were making the rounds on the Internet.

‘‘The photo that I saw and that a lot of other people saw is not authentic,’’ the senator said in a one-sentence statement issued hours after the interviews aired.

Meanwhile, President Obama is protecting all of us by keeping the photos under wraps along with the torture photos he is hiding. Whatever. I have no desire to see bin Laden’s dead body. But then why did they release all the other bloody photos that are everywhere on the internet? Like we haven’t all seen worse in the Movies and on TV.

BTW, if you don’t want to hear Obama explain why we’re all too fragile to see the dead terrorist, avoid watching 60 Minutes on Sunday, because POTUS will be making a campaign stop on the show this week.

Of course we all know that photos can be faked, doctored and even staged by our government. Reuters explains:

Reuters White House photographer Jason Reed describes how the president made his speech to a single TV camera, then immediately after finishing, he pretended to speak for the still cameras.

Reed writes:

“As President Obama continued his nine-minute address in front of just one main network camera, the photographers were held outside the room by staff and asked to remain completely silent. Once Obama was off the air, we were escorted in front of that teleprompter and the President then re-enacted the walk-out and first 30 seconds of the statement for us.”

That means the photograph that appeared in many newspapers Monday morning of Obama speaking may have been the staged shot, captured after the president spoke. This type of staging has been going on for decades.

I never knew that before. Kind of creepy, if you ask me.

Here are couple more humorous Osama anecdotes from Raw Story. A reporter from the St. Petersburg Times, Meg Laughlin, says she saw bin Laden is Islamabad in 2002.

On a quick run to the grocery store with photographer Carl Juste and a driver/translator, Juste pointed out the window and said, “Look! There’s Osama bin Laden!” Laughlin wrote in a first-person account of the incident published Tuesday in the St. Petersburg Times.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes,” she wrote. “There, in front of us was the most wanted man in the world, the face on countless posters offering a reward of $25 million for information on his whereabouts. There was no mistaking him. Towering over the men with him, he was lanky with olive skin and that scraggly long beard, those sad brown eyes and that splayed nose.

The three of us began screaming, ‘It’s Osama bin Laden! Osama bin Laden!'”

Honestly, Bush and Cheney could have caught the guy anytime they wanted to. Republicans should be ashamed for trying to give them credit. Not that Republicans are capable of shame….

This is really good. CNN reporter Nic Roberts found something interesting growing next to the compound where bin Laden and his family and friends were living.

Among the various vegetable crops growing alongside the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a row of marijuana plants was also discovered by CNN reporter Nic Robertson.

It begs the question: was Osama bin Laden a pothead?

Of course, the answer to that is in no way clear. The plants very well could have been for one of the other individuals who stayed at the compound, or another local entirely. Reports from the scene indicated that as many as three dozen people shared the three-story house, including as many as 23 children.

Some have speculated that the al Qaeda leader may have been using the marijuana as a medicine. If he was indeed on dialysis, as an unnamed U.S. intelligence source told Asiaweek back in 2000, then he could have used marijuana as a painkiller.

If we’re already getting silly stories like this one, I hate to think what trivial morsels we’ll be seeing served up by the media in a couple more days. They are going to milk this story for all it’s worth and then some.

Poor Muammar Gaddafi has been nearly wiped off the front pages by the Osama blockbuster news. But he’s still up to his old tricks. Yesterday, he bombed a humanitarian relief vessel as it was trying to evacuate foreign citizens Libyan civilians from Misrata. But it looks like the UN is going to indict Gaddafi for war crimes and try to arrest him.

The question then arises as to which organisation should carry out the arrest. Under the 1998 Rome Statute on which the court was built, that duty falls first to the national government in question, and there is at least a faint hope among western governments that the issuing of ICC arrest warrants would provide a trigger and a legal justification for any remaining waverers in the Gaddafi camp to move against him.

If not, the UN security council has to decide what to do. The job could be passed to Nato, but that would require a resolution, which Russia and China could well object to. They already believe that the February resolution allowing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians has been exploited by Nato to wage war on the side of the rebels.

To further complicate the situation, the Obama administration might also object, as it would involve sending troops into Tripoli, something that Washington has sworn not to do.

The council could instead restate the court’s demand for the Libyan leaders to turn themselves in.

It sounds like Gaddafi should be a little bit nervous right now, but according to Fox News, this probably won’t have much effect on his behavior. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister of Turkey is calling on Gaddafi to step down “for the sake of the country’s future.”

The Guardian has an op-ed by Alaa al-Ameri arguing that NATO forces would be justified in targeting Gaddafi personally.

Various commentators have declared that the deaths [allegedly of Gaddafi’s son and possibly others] prove Nato has overstepped its mandate, and has violated international law by targeting Gaddafi personally. This is based on their definition of Gaddafi as a head of state, and their belief that the UN mandate is confined only to the establishment and maintenance of a no-fly zone. Both these premises are false.

Gaddafi is not a head of state. He is a warlord in control of a personal army that he has tasked with the mass killing and terrorising of Libyans for the crime of wishing to live as free human beings. There is no meaningful Libyan government structure or decision-making body besides Gaddafi himself and his sons.

Which logic or legal principle underlies the notion that while militia in the act of aggression against a civilian population may be attacked, the leader of that militia – actively engaged in directing the violence – is off limits? What claim to special rights and privileges can be made by a man who uses rape as a weapon of war? Which principle of international law would be eroded by his death?

Despite assertions to the contrary, UN resolution 1973 does not confine Nato action to a no-fly zone. The now familiar central clause authorises member states “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”. Some critics of Nato’s action have interpreted this so narrowly as to assert that it allows no more than “a protective cordon around Benghazi”.

Another author Robert Barnidge Jr. makes a similar argument at Politico. He claims that killing bin Laden was “lawful,” and killing Gaddafi would likewise be “lawful.”

Some now argue that it is unlawful to target Qadhafi. NATO has been put on the defensive. But it shouldn’t apologize. The law is on its side.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 reaffirmed that the situation in Libya threatened international peace and security. Crucially, the resolution, in paragraph 4, authorized member states to “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” subject only to some procedural requirements.

International law prohibits states from threatening or using force in their international relations — with two exceptions: when states act in self-defence, and when the Security Council authorizes it under chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Resolution 1973 is an example of the latter.

Given that Resolution 1973 is a legal instrument, the question is what paragraph 4 permits — and what it forbids. For example, both sides in the debate about the lawfulness of the 2003 invasion of Iraq largely agreed that “all necessary measures” would mean the use of force. The debate with Iraq was whether Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002) had “revived” this language in the earlier Security Council Resolution 678 (1990). (Resolution 678 used the language “all necessary means” — but there is no significant legal difference between “measures” and “means.”)

The government of Syria is still doing ghastly things to its citizens.

Amnesty International said it has received first-hand reports of torture and other ill treatment from detainees held in Syria, as a wave of arrests of anti-government protesters intensified over the weekend.

Amnesty International said “widespread, arbitrary arrests” had taken place in towns across the country in recent days. At least 499 people were detained Sunday during house-to-house raids in Daraa, a key location for pro-reform protests, the group said, adding that most were being held at unknown locations without access to lawyers or their families.

The rights group also said it had the names of 54 people killed last Friday, which brought to 542 the number of people killed during a month and a half of protests in Syria. Amnesty International stated in a report that the high number of deaths can be attributed to tactics by Syrian security forces.

The group gave the accounts of two men detained last month in the coastal city of Banias.

One detainee said he was forced to “lick blood off the floor” after being stripped and beaten, Amnesty International said in a statement. The man told the group that he and and others detained with him had been beaten with sticks and cables as well as kicked and punched.

The rights organization said the detainee also reported being held for three days without food and being forced to drink dirty water from a toilet.

Actor Jackie Cooper died on Tuesday. He was one child actor who grew up to be a successful adult actor as well.

Before the heydays of Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney, young Jackie, a ragged urchin with a pout and a mischievous half-winked eye, was dreaming up schemes in “Our Gang” comedies and Wallace Beery pictures, like “Treasure Island,” that Hollywood churned out for the rialto.

As Americans flocked to escapist movies, he made $2,000 a week, toured the nation and hobnobbed with Bing Crosby, Tallulah Bankhead and Joan Crawford. At 9 he became the youngest Oscar nominee for best actor (a record that he still holds), in “Skippy” (1931). Later he dated Lana Turner and Judy Garland, and spent weekends on the yacht of MGM’s boss, Louis B. Mayer.

By his late teens, though, he seemed washed up, just another fading child star bound for oblivion and the life of drugs, booze and anonymity that became the fate of many of Hollywood’s forgotten children.

But he got into television in the 1950s, starring in the sitcoms “The People’s Choice” and “Hennesey,” and later became an Emmy-winning director of “M*A*S*H” and other hits; was introduced to a new generation of moviegoers as Perry White, editor of The Daily Planet, in four “Superman” films; and earned his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Have you heard about the new study that shows eating a lot of salt isn’t associated with heart problems? It was just published in the JAMA.

Jan A. Staessen, MD, PhD, of the University of Leuven, Belgium, led a study that measured urinary sodium levels in 3,681 healthy, 40-ish people and then followed their health for about eight years.

Their finding: People with the highest sodium levels had a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease than did people with the lowest sodium levels.

“Our current findings refute the estimates of computer models of lives saved and health care costs reduced with lower salt intake,” Staessen and colleagues conclude in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “They do also not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level.”

Repeat after me: “Correlation does not equal causation.” Every single one of the studies of diet and disease you hear about is based only on correlations (associations). Guess what? Heart disease (and cancer, and many other illnesses) run in families. There is nearly always a genetic component. I’d rather have good genes any day that trust the results of the countless studies that claim certain foods or behaviors are bad for me.


That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today? Lay it on me!