Friday Reads: Dog Days of Summer Edition

The ancient Greeks thought of the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose; the Greeks called it the “dog star.”  (National Geographic)

The ancient Greeks thought of the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose; the Greeks called it the “dog star.” (National Geographic)

Good Morning!!

We are in the midst of the dog days of summer–traditionally the hottest days of the year, which extend from about July 2 to August 11. I has been very hot all over the country for the past few weeks. Here in Boston, we have had a couple of weeks of temperatures around or above 90 degrees.

Why do we call them the “dog days?” It dates back to the Greeks and Romans and their beliefs about Sirius, the “dog star.” At National Geographic, Becky Little explains:

To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.

“If you go back even as far as Homer, The Iliad, it’s referring to Sirius as Orion’s dog rising, and it describes the star as being associated with war and disaster,” said Jay B. Holberg, author of Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky and senior research scientist at the University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory. “All throughout Greek and Roman literature, you found these things.”

The phrase “dog days” was translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago. Since then, it has taken on new meanings.

“Now people come up with other explanations for why they’re called the ‘dog days’ of summer, [like] this is when dogs can go crazy,” said Anne Curzan, an English professor at the University of Michigan.

“This is a very human tendency,” she said. When we don’t know the origin of a phrase, we come up with a plausible explanation.

“The meaning has been lost,” said Holberg, “but the phrase has lived on.”

Read more at the link.

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About the heat wave, from The Weather Channel: West Coast Heat Wave Threatens All-Time Records; Northeast Hot, But Not Historic.

Summer heat is gripping opposite sides of the country into this weekend, including parts of the West and the Northeast.

The heat will help clinch one of the hottest Julys on record for some Northwest cities, and a few locations may challenge their all-time or monthly record highs on Friday. It’s also helped set a record for the most 90-degree days in a year in Seattle and has given Portland its hottest temperatures since 2009.

The Northeast heat will not be as extreme, but it will stick around into next week for some cities….

A strong ridge of high pressure is building over the Northwest as the jet stream bulges northward to the Canadian border. This is allowing temperatures 5 to 20 degrees above average to take hold across parts of northern California, Oregon and Washington into the weekend, while also spreading to portions of Idaho and Montana.

It’s a fitting end to what will be one of the hottest Julys on record in parts of the Northwest. Seattle, Washington, and Astoria, Oregon, were both seeing their hottest July on record as of July 29, according to data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center. For Seattle, July 2015 could beat out August 1967 for the hottest month on record if the final average temperature for July exceeds 71.1 degrees.

July was the third warmest on record through July 29 in Portland, Oregon, and fourth warmest on record for Yakima, Washington.

High temperatures at or above 100 degrees are forecast for the Portland, Oregon, area through Friday, with middle to upper 90s expected this weekend. Portland hit 103 degrees on Thursday, which is the hottest temperature there since July 29, 2009. Even hotter temperatures are expected for the rest of the Willamette River Valley of western Oregon on Friday, which is under an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service.

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Wow! 100 degrees in Seattle? And on the East coast:

Wednesday was the hottest day so far in 2015 in New York City (96 degrees) and Albany, New York (95 degrees). Concord, New Hampshire, set a daily record high of 96 degrees, beating the old record for July 29 of 95 degrees set in 1949.

Highs will stay a handful of degrees above average for mainly eastern sections of the region into early next week.

For the most part, this heat in the Northeast will not be record breaking. However, the longevity of it will likely be greater than we’ve seen so far this summer in some cities. By early next week, some locations could meet the definition for a heat wave in the Northeast, which is generally defined in that region as three or more days in a row with temperatures at or above 90 degrees.

Temperatures in New England are beginning to moderate, and it will be only around 89-90 for the next few days. That will give some relief. I really feel for Luna out in Washington and Fannie in Idaho.

Speaking of Seattle, I came across this wonderful video of the city in 1955, posted on youtube by Jeff Alman, whose grandfather made it when on vacation in the city. The first part, which shows city streets and buildings, is the coolest, IMO. The rest is gorgeous views taken from a small plane.

Altman also posted his grandfather’s video of San Francisco in 1958.

My grandfather made color films many years ago, and they were of such high quality that my brother was able to edit them into a wonderful video that he shared with all of our relatives who appeared in them. Every time I watch it, the old images bring me to tears. What a treasure!

Seeing the scenes of Seattle made me think about how different my life might have been if my Dad had decided to take a job at a different university back in about 1958. He had offers from Seattle, Miami, and a couple of other places, but ultimately he chose the offer from Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. I’m not sure if my folks wanted to live in a smaller college town or if the money was better at Ball State.

Now for some news.

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There’s a big health story this morning: a new vaccine for the Ebola virus could make a huge difference, based on the results of a study that will appear in The Lancet. BBC News reports: Ebola vaccine is ‘potential game-changer.’

A vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has led to 100% protection and could transform the way Ebola is tackled, preliminary results suggest….

Experts said the results were “remarkable”.

This trial centred on the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which was started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and then developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck.

It combined a fragment of the Ebola virus with another safer virus in order to train the immune system to beat Ebola.

A unique clinical trial took place in Guinea. When a patient was discovered, their friends, neighbours and family were vaccinated to create a “protective ring” of immunity.

This could be the breakthrough the world has been waiting for.

There is caution as the results are still preliminary, with more data coming in.

But officials at the WHO believe the effectiveness of the vaccine will end up being between 75% and 100%.

According to the BBC, other vaccines are also being tested. This could be very good news!

DogDays-wIcedCoffee

I’m sure you’ve heard about the agonizing death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of Walter Palmer, a Minnesota Dentist who likes to kill big game with a bow and arrow.

The AP reports, via USA Today: Minn. dentist accused of poaching legendary lion.

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean police said Tuesday they are searching for an American who allegedly shot a well-known, protected lion with a crossbow in a killing that has outraged conservationists and others.

The American allegedly paid $50,000 to kill the lion named Cecil, Zimbabwean conservationists said. Authorities on Tuesday said two Zimbabwean men will appear in court for allegedly helping with the hunt. The American faces poaching charges, according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba.

Walter James Palmer of Minnesota was identified on Tuesday by both the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe as the American hunter, a name that police then confirmed.

“We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case,” said Charamba.

dog-days-of-summer

Zimbabwe is seeking Palmer’s extradition, and the outrage on social media has been so extreme that Palmer was forced to close his dental practice. He has “apologized,” but that’s apparently not going to be enough to save his skin, and I say “Good!” Still you have to wonder why stories of human deaths don’t get as much attention. More recent headlines on this story:

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: For a Week, Walter Palmer Is the Worst Human Being Ever in History.

Time: Cecil the Lion, Walter Palmer and the Psychology of Online Shaming.

Mediaite: The Hill Reports Lion Killer Donated to Romney; Twitter Asks Why That’s Relevant.

Boston Herald: Zimbabwean baffled by foreign concern for killed lion.

GossipCop: Betty White On Cecil The Lion Killer: “You Don’t Want To Hear The Things I Want To Do” Walter James Palmer.

Slate: Why Cecil Was Such an Important Lion.

Slate: How America Can Prosecute More Poachers Like the Alleged Lion Killer.

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Obviously, as a New England Patriots fan, I’ve been following the Tom Brady/Deflategate story for a long time, and this morning I came across this in Wired: Even if Tom Brady Did Smash His Phone, It’d Make Zero Sense. It turns out that the NFL and Roger Goodell could easily get Brady’s text messages if they wanted to.

JUST HOW EASY is it to destroy your text messages? In the eyes of the NFL, it’s as simple as destroying your cellphone. But as anyone who has ever had their phone stolen can tell you, that’s not even remotely true.

This week, the NFL upheld the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games in the wake of accusations he was “generally aware” of the team’s deflation of footballs. The decision, authored by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, largely hinged on the revelation that Brady destroyed his cellphone shortly before meeting with league investigators. The league suggests this was to suppress evidence and obstruct the investigation. Brady insists he was just replacing a “broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6.”

It was a fun story for a few minutes and there was some mild hoopla surrounding the idea of a frenzied Brady destroying his cellphone. Problem is, even if he had … so what? This isn’t The Wire, and snapping a cellphone in half and tossing it in the gutter wouldn’t be enough to erase Brady’s history anyway. The digital trail our phones leave behind long outlive the physical device itself, and the league could have potentially tracked down the information in a number of ways—which is why the whole story was utterly ridiculous. Regardless, here is exactly why it wouldn’t matter if Tom Brady smashed his cellphone….

Once upon a time, it was hard to recover text messages without actually having the phone they were sent to. However, Google and Apple’s efforts to sync data across multiple devices has made text message retrieval significantly easier.

As Brady was on a Samsung during the “deflategate” scandal, he was most likely using an Android device. Not only do most modern Android devices use Google Hangouts as their primary text messaging app, Google makes the process of deleting those messages inconvenient and difficult. Android’s Hangouts has a setting to delete old text messages, but the feature only does so as disk space fills up. Unlike the iPhone, which can automatically delete messages that are older than a set period of time, Android gives the user no control over how long to preserve messages.

Roger Goodell is such a pathetic liar!

More News, links only

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Newsweek: Exclusive: Inside the Mysterious ‘Death’ of Taliban Leader Mullah Omar.

CNN is still obsessed with the missing plane story: Increasing confidence plane wreckage is from MH370, Australian official says.

Hillary Clinton.com: Letter to the New York Times’ Dean Baquet.

Washington Post: Clinton knocks Bush’s ‘Right to Rise’ pitch in National Urban League speech.

The Hill: Sanders vows no third-party run in 2016.

New York Times: Jewish Arsonists Suspected in Arson Attack that Killed Palestinian Toddler.

Newsweek: Indiana Clears Planned Parenthood in Fetal Tissue Investigation.

KGNS TV: Primordial soup of compounds found on comet.

Treehugger: New wolf species discovered in Africa.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a wonderful weekend! 


Thursday Reads: Wild Weather, Climate Change, and Other News

 reading-lady-matisse-henri-fauvism-oil-on-cardboard-genre-terminartors-1372947212_orgGood Morning!!

It has been close to 90 degrees here for the past several days, and it’s technically still spring. I’m beginning to wonder if we are going to have a summer from hell as a follow-up to the worst winter in the half-century I’ve lived in Boston.

In addition to the unusually hot weather, the pollen is so bad that every morning when I wake up it takes a few hours for my scratchy, watery eyes to clear up enough for me to read comfortably.

I’m on a regimen of Flonase, Allegra, and Mucinex; but I still feel stuffed up most of the time. Sometimes I feel itchy and even dizzy and nauseated; and I think it’s from allergies. The itchy skin would be unbearable without the Allegra.

Is anyone else noticing worse-than-usual allergies this year? Last year’s spring allergy season was very bad; this year is far worse. Anyone who actually claims to believe that there isn’t something dramatic happening with our weather is either deluded or lying. I wonder if we will manage to do something about climate change before it’s too late.

What about all that awful weather down in Texas?

Here’s a story from the Texas Tribune, via KXON: Climate change, a factor in Texas floods, largely ignored.

“We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas,” said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. “And it’s consistent with what we would expect from climate change.”

But the state’s Republican leaders are deeply skeptical of the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, with top environmental regulators in Texas questioning whether the planet is warming at all. And attempts by Democratic lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session to discuss the issue have come up short.

“In part, it’s ideologically driven and intellectually lazy,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who earlier this year invited national security experts to the state Capitol to testify at a hearing on the risks of climate change. “My question is: What are people scared of? Are they scared of the truth?”

Asked about the role of climate change in the floods, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz declined to weigh in Wednesday. “At a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster,” the Republican presidential candidate said during a news conference in San Marcos after surveying damage.

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How does discussing scientific research on climate constitute “politicizing a natural disaster?”

Extreme weather events, and more of them, are among the most agreed-upon effects of global warming in all the scientific literature on the subject, said Nielsen-Gammon, who is also a professor at Texas A&M University. Part of the explanation is that ocean temperatures are rising, bringing more moist air into the state that can create storm systems. In the past century, precipitation in Texas is up 7 to 10 percent, and the frequency of two-day heavy rainfall spells has nearly doubled.

The scientific consensus is much stronger on this point than on whether climate change can directly cause droughts. Nielsen-Gammon’s own research has shown that warmer temperatures due to global warming did make the drought in Texas measurably worse than it otherwise would have been.

But for the last several years, legislation calling for climate-change studies has not succeeded in the Capitol.

It’s a pretty long article, and very interesting. I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

Hypocrisy personified

Hypocrisy personified

More on Ted Cruz’s remarks from CNN: Texas flooding puts Cruz, GOP in bind on climate change.

The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government’s response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question….

“I think the focus now is on caring for those who have lost their lives and lost their homes,” he said.

At least 31 people have died in Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma from the storm since this weekend, while another 11 remain missing in Texas. Cruz promised to do all he could to ensure that Texans get access to the resources they need during the recovery.

Wait a minute. Anti-government Ted Cruz wants the Feds to help Texas? Didn’t he oppose aid to survivors of Hurricane Sandy?

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Politicus USA: Ted Cruz Demands Federal Money For Texas Floods After Blocking Hurricane Sandy Relief.

During a press conference on the deadly flooding in Texas, Cruz said, “The federal government’s role, once the Governor declares a disaster area and makes a request, I am confident that the Texas congressional delegation, Sen. Cornyn and I, and the members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats will stand united as Texans in support of the federal government fulfilling its statutory obligations, and stepping in to respond to this natural disaster.

Sen. Cruz sang a completely different tune in 2013 when he called federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy wasteful:

Two-thirds of this spending is not remotely “emergency”; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021.

This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington – an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.

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Back to the CNN article for more Cruz climate change philosophy:

“It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” he said in an interview with the Texas Tribune.

Cruz also argued that “global warming alarmists” aren’t basing their arguments on facts, because “the satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years.”

Oh really? The point of the article is that Cruz and other Republicans may be leaning toward more moderate attitudes toward climate change research. I’ll believe that when I see it.

More interesting recent articles on climate change:

Think Progress: If You’ve Wondered Why So Many Politicians Deny Climate Change, Science Has Your Answer.

Washington Post: Climate change could shrink Mount Everest’s glaciers by 70 percent, study finds.

Dallas Morning News: Exxon CEO holds line on climate change at annual meeting.

Mother Jones Exclusive: The CIA Is Shuttering a Secretive Climate Research Program.

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In other news . . .

Bobby Jindal got some attention in Politico for attacking another member of the GOP clown car: Bobby Jindal slams Rand Paul as unfit to be commander in chief.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul for his recent comments about the Islamic State, saying the presidential contender is unfit to be commander in chief and is taking the “weakest, most liberal Democrat position” when it comes to fighting the militant group.

Using unusually harsh rhetoric and an unusual forum, Jindal posted a statement condemning Paul on Wednesday on his “office of the governor” website.

Story Continued Below

“This is a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief,” Jindal said. “We have men and women in the military who are in the field trying to fight ISIS right now, and Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position. It’s one thing for Senator Paul to take an outlandish position as a Senator at Washington cocktail parties, but being Commander-in-Chief is an entirely different job. We should all be clear that evil and Radical Islam are at fault for the rise of ISIS, and people like President Obama and Hillary Clinton exacerbate it.”

The statement from Jindal, who is also a likely GOP presidential contender, came after the Kentucky Republican suggested Wednesday morning that hawkish members of his party were to blame for the rise of the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS.

Paul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS.”

Joseph Hutchens

Joseph Hutchens

In Touch Weekly has more breaking Duggar news.

DISGRACED COP WHO DIDN’T REPORT MOLESTATION SHOOTS DOWN JIM BOB’S STORY

In 2006, Jim Bob told Springdale police that he took Josh to see State Trooper Joseph Hutchens and that Josh “admitted to Hutchens what [Josh, redacted] had done,” according to the police report, obtained exclusively by In Touch through the Freedom of Information Act. At this point, there were five victims and multiple molestations by Josh….

Hutchens is serving 56 years in prison for child pornography and admits his “reputation is shot.” He was interviewed by a representative of a local law firm at In Touch‘s request and promised nothing in return for his recollections.

Hutchens’ failure to report the abuse caused the police to halt their 2006 investigation because the statute of limitations ran out.

In the new interview from prison, Hutchens said he was told by Jim Bob and Josh that “Josh had inappropriately touched [redacted] during the time she was asleep. He said he touched her through her clothing and he said it only happened one time.”

He said the fact that it was a one-time incident influenced his decision not to report it. “I did what I thought was right and obviously it wasn’t,” he says. “If I had to do it over again, I would have told him immediately I am going to call the hotline and contacted the trooper that worked those cases and have a full report made. I thought I could handle it myself.

The Duggar family is so corrupt that I expect there could be new revelations about them for months to come.

Jim Bob and Josh

Here’s a little tidbit that Allie Jones of Gawker Defamer found: Duggar Dad’s Political Platform: Incest Should Be Punishable by Death.

[W]hat does Jim Bob think of his own response to his son’s familial abuse? In a brief statement to People, Jim Bob and Michelle said last week that “that dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.” Maybe that’s because Jim Bob publicly stated during his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate that he thinks incest should be punishable by death.

Jim Bob’s platform on his campaign website—preserved via web cache—states that he believes “rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.” Jim Bob offered this belief to explain his position on abortion (only acceptable if both the mother and the baby were going to die anyway, of course)

See the screen shot at the link.

Other stories worth checking out, links only

A story from Politico that will make you–if not Charles Pierce–want to drink antifreeze: Dems view Sanders as bigger threat than O’Malley.

Since O’Malley is no threat at all, how worried could Dems really be?

Ezra Klein pontificates at length about why the SCOTUS anti-Obamacare case is total B.S.: The New York Times blows a hole in the case against Obamacare.

A poll from Qunnipac University: May 28, 2015 – Five Leaders In 2016 Republican White House Race, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Rubio, Paul Are Only Republicans Even Close To Clinton.

I haven’t read this story from the NYT yet, but I’ll bet it’s hilarious: What George PatakiWould Need to Do to Win. One more clown for the clown car.

NYT reports Climate news from India: Indians Scramble for Heat Relief, but Many Must Still Work.

Washington Post: Breakthrough HIV study could change course of treatment for millions.

BBC News: ‘New species’ of ancient human found.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!


Tuesday Reads: A Little Bit of This and That

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Good Morning!

Texas has been experiencing really bad weather for the past few days. From the Houston Chronicle:

Texas storms leave multiple dead, 12 missing.

Recovery teams were resuming the search early Tuesday for 12 members of two families who are missing after a rain-swollen river in Central Texas carried a vacation home off its foundation, slamming it into a bridge downstream.

The hunt for the missing picked up after a holiday weekend of terrible storms that dumped record rainfall on the Plains and Midwest, caused major flooding and spawned tornadoes and killed at least eight people in Oklahoma and Texas. More than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Texas, and thousands of residents are displaced.

Authorities were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado Monday killed 13 people and left at least five unaccounted for.

Scene from Houston last night

Scene from Houston last night

More on the flooding in Houston from the Chronicle: Heavy rains flood freeways, close schools, delays bus service.

Houston motorists woke Tuesday morning to swamped freeways and closed roads as heavy thunderstorms raked the region overnight, making the morning commute dangerous and even impossible for most.

The 610 Loop as well as Katy, North and South freeways were underwater in spots throughout the area. Other major roads blocked by high water include Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway near downtown.

No injuries have been reported, but dozens of vehicles were stranded in high water throughout the city. In many cases, the water came up to to the driver’s side windows of the abandoned cars, Other vehicles are almost submerged.

Firefighters with the Houston Fire Department were dispatched to several water rescues throughout the city. Areas along Brays Bayou near the 610 Loop were particularly hard hit with several rescues during the early morning hours Tuesday. Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway are closed.

According to the National Weather Service homes were reportedly flooded in the Larchmont subdivision about six miles southwest of the city early Tuesday morning. Some homes in Rosenberg were threaetened as more than three feet of water rose in the Greenwood subdivision a few hours before dawn Tuesday.

See some amazing photos posted on Twitter at News.Mic: 17 Photos of the Devastating Floods That Hit Houston. More photos at ABC 13. The Weather Channel is providing live updates.

Houston flooding

Houston flooding

NBC News reports that other states could be affected by the storms: Houston, Texas, Hit by Unprecedented Flooding; Seven States At Risk.

Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across seven states early Tuesday as an unprecedented downpour of torrential rain triggered “extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening” conditions in Houston.

More than 30 million Americans were told to brace for dangerous thunderstorms — including flooding, hail and possible tornadoes — as meteorologists warned the weather that has centered on Texas and Oklahoma since Saturday could expand to other areas.

At least 12 people were still missing, eight people have been killed, and countless more evacuated amid the deluge that has inundated Texas and Oklahoma with record-breaking floods since Saturday.

In Houston, more than 80,000 people were without power and the flood waters closed roads including Interstate 10 and Interstate 45. Houston was among 24 counties where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Monday.

I hope RalphB and his family are safe. Dakinikat could also be in the path of the damaging weather. New Orleans is expecting thunderstorms for the next few days.

In other news, there has been a shooting at a Walmart in Grand Forks, North Dakota–where the University of North Dakota is located. My Dad got his Masters degree there.

Scene outside Grand Forks Walmart early this morning

Scene outside Grand Forks Walmart early this morning

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: 2 fatally shot inside Grand Forks Wal-Mart; Air Force member involved.

The shooting occurred shortly before 1:05 a.m. in the supercenter store on 32nd Avenue, just east of Interstate 29, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) near Grand Forks.

Grand Forks police said officers discovered “multiple victims” inside the store and one of them was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks for injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

The AFOSI said there were three people involved and one was an airman. The base is about 20 miles west of the store.

Neither police nor Air Force personnel released details about whether the airman was the shooter or one of the victims. There is also no immediate information about what prompted the violence, but Deputy Police Chief Mike Ferguson added, “the Police Department does not believe there is any further on-going immediate public safety risk at this time.”

There isn’t a lot of information about the incident as yet. From the Fargo Forum: 

In a press conference at the Grand Forks Police Department, Zimmel said there was no active shooting when officers arrived on scene.

Zimmel said at this time, police believe the shooter is among the dead. Only one person involved in the incident is believed to have had a gun, Zimmel said.

Police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting, whether it was targeted or random….

Andy Legg, who was in the store at the time, told a WDAZ reporter he heard “popping sounds” going off in the store and that he and a group of customers were herded to a section of the store by authorities. Legg said he and the group later exited the building passing a Walmart employee covered in blood. Legg says he’s not sure of the person’s condition but that it “didn’t look good.”

Shortly after 4 a.m., a police SWAT team, using a special robot, began searching a car in the parking lot.

Johnson

Remember Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, the right wing a-hole and twitter troll? His account has once again been suspended by Twitter after he threatened activist Deray Mckessen. From re/code:

Notorious Twitter troll Chuck Johnson was placed in time-out Sunday — at least temporarily — and it looks as though the company’s new policy on violent threats was the reason.

Twitter suspended Johnson, who has a long history of Internet trolling, for what appears to be a threat against civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. Johnson tweeted this morning asking people to donate money for “taking out” McKesson, who responded, saying that he took Johnson’s comments as a “serious threat.”

The account suspension is nothing new for Johnson. But what’s worth noting is that this appears to be an example of Twitter’s new policy on threats coming into play. The company changed the policy’s wording last month so that it no longer included phrases like “direct” and “specific.” Essentially, those qualifiers were limiting the types of tweets Twitter could act upon.

Not anymore. This looks like the kind of threat that may have slipped through the system a few months back. So this is good for Twitter, a company that has struggled mightily when dealing with bullying and threats.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on Johnson’s suspension, so there’s no way of knowing how long he’ll be blocked from the service.

From Raw Story: ‘Hate is organized in America’: Black activist fights back after death threats from pro-cop blogger.

In a statement to Re/code, Johnson accused Twitter of “censorship.”

“I was speaking metaphorically about exposing DeRay in much the same way Slate was speaking metaphorically when they talked about ‘taking out’ a Supreme Court justice,” he wrote.

But in an interview with CNN on Monday, Mckesson said that Johnson should have known better.

“For someone who considers themselves a journalist, I firmly believe that he understands the power of his words,” Mckesson explained. “And his words are his words. ‘Take out’ functions in a certain way. And if I got on any media outlet and said something to the effect of ‘take out the police,’ nobody would think that I was talking about an exposé.”

“I was proud that Twitter took the action to move so quickly, and remember that racism doesn’t exist only in the extremes,” he continued. “It’s not just slavery and the n-word. It functions in these subtle ways too. He, again, knew very clearly what he was doing by using this language.”

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And from Pando Daily’s David Holmes: Here’s the remarkable letter Chuck Johnson’s attorney sent to Twitter threatening legal action.

For at least the fourth time in his sad, shameful, misogynist, racist career, Twitter has suspended the rightwing blogger Chuck Johnson….

…Johnson is outraged over the suspension, tweeting under a new account @citizentrolling– which a few minutes prior to my writing this sentence has now also been suspended — that Twitter is guilty of “censorship” and writing that the company’s enforcement of its policies exhibits a clear political bias against rightwingers like himself.

“Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots,” Johnson wrote. “But they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.”

I’m struggling to know where to begin in describing the lunacy of Johnson’s argument. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t engage at all with Johnson who has failed to build a career through producing quality journalism or analysis and instead — in what must be an overwhelmingly sad discovery — has found that the only thing anyone will pay him for anymore is to spew hatred at the most vulnerable members of society, in particular rape victims. But his complaints raise some important misconceptions about Twitter, free speech, and who controls what can or can’t be said in the new digital content paradigm.

Now it appears that Johnson is threatening legal action against Twitter for loss of income that would otherwise be generated by his hateful tweets. Johnson emailed me the letter his attorneys sent to Twitter demanding the reinstatement of his accounts, attached in full below. What makes it so absurd is the notion that Twitter is somehow guilty of “censorship” or that the company owes him a living.

Read the letter at the Pando link.

Sigh . . .  When will “journalists” finally figure out that Hillary Clinton is a separate person from her husband and there is no reason for her to feel bound by decisions Bill Clinton made back in the 1990s?

Melinda Henneberger at Bloomberg Politics: Will Hillary Clinton Run Against Her Husband’s Welfare Legacy? I’m not even going to quote from the article. It’s just a rehash of 20-year-old events. Get a clue, Melinda. Hillary is not Bill, and over the past 20 years there has been a lot of water under the bridge. Hillary is not bound by things she or her husband said and did in the distant past.

Some Duggar updates:

Anna and Josh Duggar

Anna and Josh Duggar

Raw Story: GOP ally suggests criminal charges for police chief who released Duggar sex abuse report.

State Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) told KSFM-TV that Kathy O’Kelley, chief of the Springdale police, had harmed Duggar’s sisters and other girls he admitted to fondling as they slept in 2002, when he was 14 years old.

“The law to protect minors’ identities is not a suggestion,” Hester said. “So sad to see the person charged with protecting the community being so reckless and irresponsible. I believe it is unavoidable that the Springdale police chief should be terminated. She has re-victimized these young ladies.”

I guess Hester hasn’t heard of the Freedom of Information Act.

“From every indication I have, the chief and city attorney reluctantly did what they had to do to comply with the state (freedom of information) law,” said Dough Sprouse, the Springdale Mayor.

Hester, sponsor of an Arkansas bill similar to Indiana’s anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” wondered whether other sex abuse victims should worry that O’Kelley would publicize their identities.

Like he cares even an iota about abuse victims. Give me a break!

Us Weekly: Anna Duggar Shared Cryptic Quote About Forgiveness Days Before Josh Duggar Molestation Allegations Surfaced.

Days before news broke of Josh Duggar allegedly molesting five girls back when he was a teen, the 19 Kids and Counting star’s pregnant wife Anna Duggar shared a cryptic quote about forgiveness with her Instagram followers.

“The three most beautiful and liberating words in the English language are these,” the mother of three wrote on May 17, quoting pastor Lon Solomon on her page. “‘I forgive you.'” (Solomon, a senior pastor at a Virginia megachurch, is the author of a book titled Brokenness: How God Redeems Pain and Suffering.)

Well, she apparently knew all about Josh’s history and still decided to have children with him.

Finally, from TMZ: Josh Duggar Cracks Molestation Joke. Dating Family Is What We Do!

Back in 2008 — long before Duggar’s molestation past came to light — he made a quip during an episode of what was then called “17 Kids and Counting.”

Josh describes a double date scenario with his then-fiancée Anna … he ended up going with 2 of his siblings.

Josh explains, “We chose Jana and John David. We thought why not, have a double date … We are from Arkansas!”

He then broke out in laughter.

Not so funny now …

Not funny then either, IMHO.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Tuesday Reads: Blizzard of 2015 and Other News

A pedestrian crosses Beacon Street in Boston as a large snowstorm approaches New England on Monday, January 26, 2015. Staff photo by Christopher Evans

A pedestrian crosses Beacon Street in Boston as a large snowstorm approaches New England on Monday, January 26, 2015. Staff photo by Christopher Evans

Good Morning!!

As of late last night we didn’t have much snow where I live, but this morning there’s at least a foot out there if not more. The town hasn’t even plowed my street yet, so it looks like a sea of white and you can’t tell there’s a road there at all. The snow is piled up against the storm door, so I’ll either have to dig out gradually while pushing the door outward or try to get out through the garage. We are still expecting at least another foot today before the storm passes.

I can’t really complain so far. I’m warm and dry and I have electricity. I feel for the people along the coast and on the islands. Here in Massachusetts, Nantucket and parts of Cape Cod have lost power.  Nantucket had 78 mph winds last night. In Scituate, which is on the South Shore, “officials cut power to homes along ocean,” 

SCITUATE, Mass. (WHDH) –Town officials in Scituate cut power to several coastal roads because they fear, if an electrical fire sparks inside a home it could easily spread to several homes and fire crews wouldn’t be able to access it during high tide.

It was a precaution based of a similar storm in 2010 that destroyed two houses.

“We’re doing it for this storm, because experience has told us, the power company  needs lots of advance notice to power down an area, we expect significant flooding in this area,” Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said.

“There are no mandatory evacuations permitted in MA, that’s why can only ask people to voluntarily leave,” Vinchesi said.

I feel for those people. The temperature where I live was in the single numbers last night and it’s only in the teens right now.

Orion (L) walks through Central Park after a snowstorm hit New York January 27, 2015 ©Stan Honda (AFP)

Orion (L) walks through Central Park after a snowstorm hit New York January 27, 2015 ©Stan Honda (AFP)

 

You can watch the storm track live at NBCNews.com. Here’s the latest on the storm, according to NBC.

Coastal New England was battered Tuesday by a blizzard of blinding snow, ferocious waves and winds that topped hurricane speed, and city streets in Boston were empty of all but snowplows.

New York City, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut lifted travel bans, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said subways and buses in the nation’s largest city would roll again later in the morning. But major airports in the Northeast were still deserted after more than 7,700 flights were canceled.

In Massachusetts, the blizzard was living up to its historic billing. The city of Worcester, about 60 miles west of Boston, had 25 inches of snow on the ground and was closing in on its record of 32.1 as a band of extremely heavy snow settled in for the morning.

In Boston proper:

Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston said it could still be Tuesday night or Wednesday before mass transit starts rolling again there. In the meantime, police were ferrying doctors and nurses to their hospital shifts.

“We’ve had a pretty good night, but the main bulk of the storm is hitting us right now,” Walsh of Boston said on NBC’s TODAY. “We’re asking people just to stay in their homes today and just ride this one out.”

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were all under states of emergency as of early this morning. Apparently the storm was somewhat of a bust in NYC, with only about 6 inches in Central Park and not much more predicted.

From USA Today: Mighty storm hammers Northeast; NYC ‘dodges bullet.’

A mighty storm marched resolutely across the deserted streets of the Northeast early Tuesday, showing mercy on New York City and Philadelphia but relentlessly pounding Boston and many coastal areas with heavy snow, high winds and flooding.

More than 50 million people were hunkered down in the angry storm’s path. More than 7,000 flights were canceled, road travel was banned in several states and schools were closed for millions of kids.

The storm was forecast to continue roaring through much of the region into Wednesday, although forecasters were downgrading the potential impact in some areas. The National Weather Service said the storm tracked 50 to 75 miles further east than expected.

“It’s a case of haves and have nots,” AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys told USA TODAY on Tuesday. “The worst of it is in the coastal areas. Other places have been relatively spared.”

Philadelphia, which on Monday morning appeared to be vulnerable to huge snow totals, had about an inch downtown early Tuesday. A blizzard warning was canceled for New York City and New Jersey.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opened city streets to traffic Tuesday morning, and the subway system was being brought up to speed. The city had feared a blast of 20 inches of snow or more; Central Park had almost 8 inches Tuesday morning.

“This is a better-safe-than-sorry scenario,” de Blasio said on CNN Tuesday morning. “It is still very bad on the streets … but we dodged a bullet.”

Here’s another NBC News page with live updates on transportation delays and road closings.

For the real weather geeks, here’s an article from The Boston Globe on How and Why Nor’easters Form.

One question you might ask during this major storm is how and why did this form? If you saw a forecast as recently as Friday, meteorologists thought this storm would stay mostly out to sea, obviously that isn’t the case. Let me explain why the storm formed and then why it’s hitting and moving so slowly.

It’s important to keep this in mind when thinking about a storm. It’s all about nature’s attempt to bring balance to the atmosphere. Storms try to blend cold and warm air together to make them even. Once this happens, a storm will weaken and die. As the storm is forming the contrast in air masses is at it’s most intense. We are seeing nature’s attempt to bring warm air north and cold air south, the result is an intense coastal storm, we call a nor’easter.

Noreaster

You have likely heard of the jet stream. This is the band of winds at 30,000 feet that moves storms and air masses across the middle latitudes of the planet where we live. This jet stream doesn’t blow in a straight line. Instead it has curves and loops and these change the way the air flows within this stream of air. Basic meteorology tells us that if the air up at 30,000 feet is spreading out and speeding up it in turn aids in pulling the air upward off the surface of the planet. We call these concepts diffluence and divergence and they are two major components to why winter storms form. That upward motion or lift brings the air from the ground higher and higher until it cools and forms clouds and eventually precipitation. The more lift you have, the bigger the storm.

upperlevel12814

When storms are formed and becoming more intense all the levels of the atmosphere work in tandem to help build the storm.

Read much more wonky stuff about weather at the link.

So that’s the winter weather situation as of this morning. If you are in one of the affected states, please let us know how you’re doing.

In other news,

I’m going stick with headlines this morning, because I’m still fighting a cold and I didn’t sleep that well last night. Here’s what’s happening:

Washington Post, Koch-backed network aims to spend nearly $1 billion on 2016 elections.

Politico, The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million.

Via Cannonfire, an interview  with Max Blumenthal at The Read News about the lies in the movie American Sniper, American Sniper: Honoring a Fallen Hero or Whitewashing a Murderous Occupation?

AL.com, Alabama’s first openly gay lawmaker threatens to ‘out’ officials having extramarital affairs.

The Hill, Pelosi: With Hillary Clinton, Democrats can win the House.

Something very creepy out of Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence’s state-run news outlet will compete with media. “Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.” Yikes!

Interesting developments in Greece.

The Guardian, Greece’s new anti-austerity government set on collision course with Brussels.

The New Yorker, Greece’s Warning to the Rest of Europe.

NPR, Greece’s Left-Wing Prime Minister Takes Charge.

Fox News, Bergdahl to be charged with desertion, ex-military intel officer says.

Washington Post, Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling convicted in leak case.

Talking Points Memo, Jon Stewart Has Field Day With Incomprehensible Palin Speech (VIDEO).

What else is happening? Please share your links in the comment thread and enjoy your Tuesday!


Thursday Reads: Winter Storms, Political and Corporate Corruption, and Other News

winter2013bookshelves

Good Morning!!

Snow began falling here before 7AM, and there is already a coating over everything. Of course we already had a around a foot of the stuff on the ground, so whatever we get will pile on top of that. Depending on where the rain/snow line falls, everything may be coated with ice by tonight.

Once again the South has been hit hard with winter weather. The Washington Post reports: Winter storm headed toward D.C. knocks out power across the Southeast U.S.

A powerful winter storm dropped a coat of snow and freezing rain across the Southeast on Wednesday, leaving almost 300,000 customers without power, forcing the cancellation ofmore than 3,600 flights, and creating gridlock on roadways in North Carolina.

In Atlanta, where another recent snowstorm had caused massive traffic jams, people seemed to have learned their lesson. Schools were closed. Workers stayed home. The city turned into a kind of wintry ghost town.

But in North Carolina, drivers didn’t seem to have learned the lesson at all.

In both Charlotte and Raleigh, news outlets reported that people headed out onto ice-covered roads in mid-afternoon. The result was the same it had been in Atlanta two weeks ago: creeping traffic, abandoned cars and folks offering stranded motorists a place to stay the night….

As Wednesday went on, the storm swept from Alabama, across Georgia and up into the Carolinas on its way toward Virginia and the Washington area.

Another Winter Storm Affects Atlanta Area

CBS Atlanta warned Georgians to stay off the roads today if possible.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials said they are expecting road conditions to remain treacherous into Thursday morning as sleet and freezing rain is expected to continue. GDOT is urging the public to avoid all but emergency travel until at least mid-day Thursday

Forecasters at the National Weather Service said they are expecting falling pieces of melting ice to pose threats to drivers and pedestrians near overpasses and tall structures on Thursday.

Forecasters are also anticipating wet roads to refreeze Thursday night, which could lead to patches of black ice.

Several inches of snow could accumulate in North Georgia while the area across the state between a line just north of Columbus, Macon, Warner Robins and Statesboro and extending northward to above Interstate Highway 20 are experiencing icing roadways, power lines and trees. Moreover, winds gusting to as much as 30 m.p.h. could cause limbs and trees to fall on power lines and roads. A State of Emergency remains in effect for 91 counties in this region.

Traffic in Charlotte, NC

Traffic in Charlotte, NC

NPR: Winter Storm Paralyzes Roads In North Carolina, Despite Warnings

They knew it was coming. But drivers in North Carolina still fell prey to the winter storm that the National Weather Service predicted would be “potentially crippling” to the area. Even those who left just after noon have been trapped by the heavy snow that arrived today.

“Snow arrives in the Triangle as expected but causes gridlock anyway,” reads the headline in the Raleigh News Observer, referring to the Research Triangle of the cities Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. The intense traffic came one day after Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency ahead of the winter storm.

From what we’re seeing, people are blaming the problem on two factors: The snow came on fast and immediately stuck to roads; and most commuters who worked Wednesday tried to leave at the same time, adding to the gridlock.

The worst of the conditions may be yet to come, as officials expect freezing rain and sleet to hit the area as the storm moves out.

From NBC News: ‘Very Rough Commute’ Looms as Snow Blankets Much of Northeast.

The winter storm that tore through the American South, knocking out power to a half-million people, has marched up the East Coast to terrorize the morning commute Thursday.

More than 150 million people remain under a winter storm warning or advisory as snow falls in some Northeast cities at a rate of 1-2 inches per hour.

“The rate of snowfall will be hard to deal with,” said Kevin Roth, a forecaster with the The Weather Channel. “It will be a very rough commute. The may have enough plows to deal with normal storms but with two inches an hour the they drive by and the snow just builds back up. This will affect any roadways or airport runways in the region.”

It could be a very long weekend for many parents. Since Monday is a holiday, schools may just decide to close tomorrow as well as closing or letting out early today.

ray-nagin

Down in New Orleans, it was a bad day for former Mayor Ray Nagin and former St.Tammany coroner Peter Galvin, but a good day for a city that has endured more than it’s share of political corruption. From Nola.com’s James Varney: Ray Nagin convicted, Peter Galvan sentenced – a good day for Louisiana.

Wednesday was a very good day at U.S. District Court in New Orleans for those who favor good government in Louisiana. Or maybe simply for justice.

Either way, when a former mayor of New Orleans gets convicted on 20 of 21 corruption counts in one federal courtroom, and a crooked coroner is sentenced to two years in another, it at least means the bad guys don’t always get away with it.

Who knows what Ray Nagin, New Orleans’ mayor during its darkest hour of Katrina, will be sentenced to? He faces up to 20 years in prison, and I’m hard pressed to come up with many reasons he should get much less….

Meanwhile, disgraced former St. Tammany coroner Peter Galvan, who managed to make himself the highest paid official in the state and sweeten his pension pot while also raking in undeserved sick pay and other goodies, got off with a 2-year sentence when he could have gotten five.

From the Christian Science Monitor summarizes the evidence against Nagin:

The case against the former mayor was towering. In the nine-day trial, prosecutors summoned many co-conspirators to the stand who testified to the pay-to-play schemes Nagin orchestrated, plus the bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that he sought and then redirected to Stone Age, a granite countertop business operated by his sons, who were not charged.

In addition to the witnesses, prosecutors presented jurors with a mountain of evidence – e-mail correspondence, business contracts, credit card and bank statements, and more – that they said proved the mayor was a willing participant in wielding power for personal profit.

Nagin was convicted on five counts of bribery, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy, four counts of filing false tax returns, and one overarching count of conspiracy. Jurors acquitted Nagin of a single charge of bribery related to a $10,000 bribe that prosecutors said he accepted through the family business.

“The physical evidence was so overwhelming that for Ray Nagin to have successfully defended this case, he would have had, in some way, to refute these documents and use his credibility,” says Michael Sherman, a political scientist at Tulane University in New Orleans and a former legal adviser to current mayor Mitch Landrieu.

ComcastMonopoly

Now if we could just get the Federal government to stop letting corporations to get away with murder. My jaw dropped when I saw this headline at Reuters: Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion.

Comcast Corp said on Thursday it would buy Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion in an all-stock deal that combines the two largest U.S. cable operators.

The friendly takeover comes as a surprise after months of public pursuit of Time Warner Cable by smaller rival Charter Communications Inc, and immediately raised questions as to whether it would pass regulatory scrutiny.

Comcast will pay $158.82 per share, which is roughly what Time Warner Cable demanded from Charter.

The combined company would divest 3 million subscribers, about a quarter of Time Warner’s 12 million customers. Together with Comcast’s 22 million video subscribers, the roughly 30 million total would represent just under 30 percent of the U.S. pay television video market.

The new cable giant would tower over its closest video competitor, DirecTV, which has about 20 million video customers.

WTF?! Comcast already owns broadcast giant NBC, and now they will essential control the distribution of TV and internet cable? If the feds let this go through, it will be another huge step backward to the Robber Baron days. Whatever happened to the Sherman AntiTrust Act, anyway?

ncv-sinkhole-2

This news out of Kentucky is just unbelievable: Sinkhole ‘erupts’ inside National Corvette Museum. From the Autoblog:

A 40-foot sinkhole (see photo at left)  developed inside the National Corvette Museum overnight in Bowling Green, KY, swallowing up eight vehicles, including two Corvette models on loan from General Motors. No one was in the museum at the time of the incident, which happened early this morning.

According to the NCM, motion sensors were set off at 5:44 AM, leading museum authorities to discover a 25 to 30-foot deep chasm, that Executive Director Wendell Strode called “pretty significant.” The sinkhole developed in the museum’s Skydome, although it can’t be seen on any of the museum’s webcams (the Enthusiast cam is the closest look we can get to what’s going on).

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports emergency personnel remain on the scene, and have only allowed museum employees to remove a single vehicle – the only remaining 1983 Corvette, which was part of a mere 44-vehicle run.

The two cars on loan from GM were a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder and a 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil,” while the damanged museum-owned cars included a 1962 Corvette, the millionth Vette ever built (a 1992), a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 and the 1.5 millionth car produced. None of the damaged vehicles were on loan from private individuals. The extent of the damage to these vehicles remains unclear at this time.

Finally, some science news: Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory claim to have achieved nuclear fusion. From the LA Times: Nuclear fusion reactions mark a ‘milestone’

It took 192 lasers and a building big enough to contain three football fields, but physicists have finally produced a pair of nuclear fusion reactions that created more energy than was in the fuel to start with.

The reactions lasted less than a billionth of a second, and they released only a few thousand joules — enough to power a 100-watt light bulb for less than three minutes. But it marks the first time scientists have been able to harness the power of stars here on Earth.

“This is really an important milestone,” said Warren Mori, a plasma physicist at UCLA who was not involved in the effort.

The experiment, conducted at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area, is still a very long way from “ignition,” the point at which the reaction generates more energy than was required to kick it off with lasers. Scientists agree that significant hurdles remain before that goal can be reached.

But the tests, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, give researchers a promising sign that they’re finally on the right path to reaching this goal — one that could ultimately lead to cleaner nuclear energy, safer weapons arsenals and a more profound understanding of astrophysics.

So . . . what stories are you following today? As always, please post your recommended links in the comment thread and stay safe and warm where ever you are!


Lazy Caturday Reads

BfW_7xbIUAAYlki

Good Morning!!

It’s a winter Saturday, a good day to stay in a comfy bed for awhile, relax, and catch up on the latest news. So let’s see what’s happening out there today.

First up, the all-important weather forecast. I know you won’t be surprised to learn there are more winter storms on the way. From the Weather Channel: Winter Storm Maximus Brings Snow, Ice to Midwest, South, East, Rockies Through Monday.

Winter Storm Maximus, the 13th named storm of the winter season in the U.S., will have deposited a wintry mess from coast to coast by the time it is finally over Monday.

This storm will have multiple waves of snow, sleet and freezing rain sweeping west to east across the country.

First, snow will taper off over parts of the southern and central Rockies. A few additional inches of snow are expected over the mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. This storm will drop snow in the west, parts of the South and Midwest and then move into upstate New York and Northern New England. It’s not yet clear what we’ll be getting in the northeast, but right now we are expecting a warm weekend, and the storm shouldn’t interfere with the Super Bowl tomorrow.

another wave of wintry precipitation kicks off early Sunday in the Southern Plains, spreading to the Ozarks and the Mid-South region Sunday afternoon, then sweeping quickly through the Tennessee Valley, Appalachians and East Sunday night and Monday.

Snow accumulations look most likely in a stripe from northwest Texas into parts of Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virgina, and Virginia with several inches of accumulation possible. Parts of northwest Texas and southern Oklahoma near the Red River could measure up to around six inches of snow.

“Maximus” will be closely followed by Winter Storm Nika, which will bring “widespread” snow and ice to the Plains, the Great Lakes, and the Northeast. Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, but whether or not the sleepy rodent sees his shadow, it looks like winter is going to continue unabated.

In Georgia, where people are still trying to recover from their state government’s failure to prepare for a winter storm that had been predicted for two days beforehand, investigators are still trying assign blame for the massive f&ck-up.

cat taco

From the Atlanta Journal-Contitution: Storm debacle ‘case study’ of emergency management failure.

After two inches of snow turned Georgia into a national punch line, the state’s top disaster responder was cast as one of the debacle’s chief enablers. But the performance of state emergency management director Charley English is only part of larger-scale breakdown of the emergency management system, records and interviews reveal.

Records show there were failures up and down the line before and during Tuesday’s storm.

The performance of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Tuesday is “a case study in how things can go badly,” said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

It’s also a case study in what can happen if you keep electing Republicans who hate government and don’t believe it has a role in public problem-solving. According to the article, Gov. Nathan Deal and other government officials had plenty of warning that the storm was going to hit Atlanta, yet they did next to nothing to prepare. Read all the gory details at the link.

At The National Memo, Joe Conason provides an example of how government has worked well in two blood-red states: Universal Pre-K? Ask Republicans In Georgia And Oklahoma — And Then Ask Grover Norquist.

Among the biggest policy mistakes of the past 50 years is our continuing failure to provide quality early childhood education to all of America’s kids. For children, families, and society as a whole, the benefits of “universal pre-K” are not only significant and well documented, but offset the financial cost many times over. Although we’ve been aware of these basic facts since the early Sixties, most politicians have preferred to squander billions of dollars on malfunctioning weaponry, catastrophic wars, and petroleum subsidies….

Even if there were no economic upside to starting the education of every child at three or four years of age, the obvious social benefits would vital for any country that aspires to cultivating a vibrant democratic republic. Citizens who can read and do math (and perhaps take an interest in science!) are more likely to succeed at self-government. They are also far more likely to succeed in life.

Enhancing personal opportunity is how universal pre-school generates universal public savings — estimated by a large cohort of studies to lie somewhere between 7 and 17 dollars for every single dollar spent.  Human brains mostly develop well before age five, so children who attend quality pre-school enter kindergarten with social skills, confidence, and knowledge that boosts achievement for many years.

cat-reading-a-book

So what happened in Georgia and Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, where every child has been entitled to free pre-school since 1998, a well-known study by Georgetown University educators found substantially improved cognitive skills and test scores among Tulsa students who had attended public pre-K. The program made the difference between falling below national norms and moving up to achieve them. In Georgia, first to implement universal state-funded pre-school almost 20 years ago, painstaking research has likewise showed gains in math and reading that lasted through eighth grade, especially among underprivileged rural and urban children.

What about Grover Norquist? According to Conason he sends his own kids to D.C.’s free public pre-school program, despise his avowed opposition to taxes of any kind. Maybe some of those right wing Congresspeople should have a talk with him about early childhood education.

It’s looking more and more like the Keystone XL Pipeline will be approved, according to the NYT:

The State Department released a report on Friday concluding that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, leaving an opening for President Obama to approve the politically divisive project.

The department’s long-awaited environmental impact statement appears to indicate that the project could pass the criteria Mr. Obama set forth in a speech last summer when he said he would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Although the pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the Gulf Coast, the report appears to indicate that if it were not built, carbon-heavy oil would still be extracted at the same rate from pristine Alberta forest and transported to refineries by rail instead.

The report sets up a difficult decision for Secretary of State John Kerry, who now must make a recommendation on the international project to Mr. Obama. Mr. Kerry, who hopes to make action on climate change a key part of his legacy, has never publicly offered his personal views on the pipeline. Aides said Mr. Kerry was preparing to “dive into” the 11-volume report and would give high priority to the issue of global warming in making the decision. His aides offered no timetable.

If so, there will be pushback from indigenous Americans: Keystone XL ‘black snake’ pipeline to face ‘epic’ opposition from Native American alliance.

A Native American alliance is forming to block construction of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline which still needs final approval from U.S. President Barack Obama after the State Department released an environmental report indicating the project wouldn’t have a significant impact Alberta tar sands production.

Members from the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation, along with tribal members and tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, have been preparing to stop construction of the 1,400 kilometre pipeline which is slated to run, on the U.S. side, from Morgan, Mon., to Steel City, Neb., and pump 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s tar sands. The pipeline would originate in Hardisty, Alta.

“It poses a threat to our sacred water and the product is coming from the tar sands and our tribes oppose the tar sands mining,” said Deborah White Plume, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. “All of our tribes have taken action to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Read the rest at the link.

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The Economist has an interesting article about the Winter Olympic games and Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Sochi or bust: The conspicuous dazzle of the games masks a country, and a president, in deepening trouble

FEBRUARY 7th sees the opening of the winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. The message of the games is simple: “Russia is back”. Sochi was planned as a celebration of Russia’s resurgence, a symbol of international recognition and a crowning moment for Vladimir Putin, its president, who for the present seems to have seen off all his challengers.

Appropriately, the opening ceremony will include the image of the Russian “troika-bird” from Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls”. “Rus,” wrote Gogol, “aren’t you soaring like a spry troika that can’t be overtaken? The road is smoking under you, the bridges thunder, everything steps aside and is left behind!…Is this lightning thrown down from heaven? Other nations and states gaze askance, step off the road and give [you] right of way.”

The quote has long been used to justify Russian exceptionalism and moral superiority. Gogol describes Russia as a deeply flawed and corrupt country, but it is precisely its misery and sinfulness that entitles it to mystical regeneration. His troika carries a swindler, Chichikov, and his drunken coachman, but it is transformed into the symbol of a God-inspired country that gloriously surpasses all others.

So, too, with the Sochi Olympics. This grand enterprise, the largest construction project in Russia’s post-Soviet history, is also a microcosm of Russian corruption, inefficiencies, excesses of wealth and disregard for ordinary citizens. The Olympics are widely seen as an extravagant caprice of Russia’s rulers, especially its flamboyantly macho president, rather than a common national effort. The cost of the games has more than quadrupled since 2007, making them, at $50 billion, the most expensive in history. One member of the International Olympic Committee thinks about a third of that money has been stolen. Russia’s opposition leaders say the figure is much higher.

Check it out. It’s a long read, but worthwhile, IMO.

cat-in-snow

There’s some good news out of New York City, now that neo-facist Mayor Mike Bloomberg is gone. It looks like the “stop and frisk” policy will end soon: Mayor Says New York City Will Settle Suits on Stop-and-Frisk Tactics.

New York City will settle its long-running legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning and often frisking people on the street — a divisive issue at the heart of the mayoral race last year — by agreeing to reforms that a judge ordered in August, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.

In making the announcement, which he said he hoped would end a turbulent chapter in the city’s racial history, Mr. de Blasio offered a sweeping repudiation of the aggressive policing practices that had been a hallmark of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, but that had stoked anger and resentment in many black and Latino neighborhoods. He essentially reversed the course set by Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had appealed the judge’s ruling.

“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”

That’s great news, but I wish he had noted that women have also been targeted, often in sexually abusive ways.

I’ll wrap this up and put my remaining links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. Please let us know what stories you’ve found interesting today.

Have a great weekend everyone!!


Tuesday Reads: Snowstorm, On-line Harassment, Profiling Snowden, and Other News

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Good Morning!!

Looks like another big snowstorm is headed my way this afternoon. Blizzard warning south of Boston, winter storm warning for most areas.

Overnight the watches were converted to warnings meaning the likelihood of blizzard conditions and snow exceeding 6 inches has increased. The morning commute will be dry and you will see some dim sunshine. The snow begins this afternoon along the coast and the evening commute will be impacted. The storm is most intense overnight and ends during the morning from west to east on Wednesday….There is a blizzard warning up for Cape Cod, coastal Massachusetts south of Boston, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

At least I’m not in the blizzard zone for the moment. This appears to be a really big storm. I saw on Twitter this morning that there were whiteout conditions in St. Louis. You can watch a video update the Weather Channel page.

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States:

NBC News reports: Winter storm set to ‘go bananas’ across Northeast.

With memories of the dreaded polar vortex still fresh, winter deals another blow Tuesday, slamming the Northeast with a blast of cold air and up to a foot of snow.

“They are going to have quite a snowstorm,” said Kevin Roth, a lead meteorologist with theWeather Channel. “By this evening, all four cities from Philadelphia to Boston could face a pretty bad commute home. We’re expecting a good six to 10 inches. It will be snowing pretty hard.”

“Every once in while these little winter storms go bananas and we think this might be the one,” he added.

Yikes! What the heck does that mean? The story doesn’t explain. But meteorologists are begging us not to call it a “polar vortex.”

Temperatures are set to drop again in the Midwest and Northeast starting Sunday, a forecast that already is prompting the return of the phrase “polar vortex” — widely used to describe the blast of cold air that chilled the U.S. earlier this month. But while the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the interior Northeast will experience below-average temperatures in the coming week, don’t call it a “polar vortex,” meteorologists say.

The “polar vortex” is a real weather phenomenon, just not one that actually visits the United States, they say. It’s actually a circular weather pattern that has always been stationed above the Arctic, explains weather.com.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the swirling high-altitude system never moves into the U.S., though parts of it can “break off” and push cold air south.

The cold experienced in early January was actually a result of the polar vortex weakening, becoming warmer and therefore releasing its powerful chill beyond its normal reach through the northern climes, NOAA says.

Weather experts at NOAA said the intense cold air the U.S. has experienced is in fact a result of a warming world and increasing climate variability. While researchers cannot yet determine whether the fluctuations are a result of natural patterns or environmental effects, meteorologists can predict that parts of the U.S. will see freezing weather again in the coming days as a result of a polar vortex breakdown.

Anyway, I’m going to have to rush around this morning. I have a package to mail, and I need to get a couple of things at the grocery store. I do have some interesting reads for you today–some of them are pretty long, but well worth reading.

cyber

Yesterday, via Tom Watson at Forbes, I came across an essay by long-time feminist blogger Amanda Hess that Watson says has been “widely discussed” for the past week or so. Somehow I missed it. Hess argues that on-line sexual harassment of women will be “the next civil rights issue.” In the essay, she writes about the frequent on-line attacks she and other female writers have experienced (warning: explicit and violent language)Here are the first few paragraphs.

I was 12 hours into a summer vacation in Palm Springs when my phone hummed to life, buzzing twice next to me in the dark of my hotel room. I squinted at the screen. It was 5:30 a.m., and a friend was texting me from the opposite coast. “Amanda, this twitter account. Freaking out over here,” she wrote. “There is a twitter account that seems to have been set up for the purpose of making death threats to you.”

I dragged myself out of bed and opened my laptop. A few hours earlier, someone going by the username “headlessfemalepig” had sent me seven tweets. “I see you are physically not very attractive. Figured,” the first said. Then: “You suck a lot of drunk and drug fucked guys cocks.” As a female journalist who writes about sex (among other things), none of this feedback was particularly out of the ordinary. But this guy took it to another level: “I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” And then: “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

My fingers paused over the keyboard. I felt disoriented and terrified. Then embarrassed for being scared, and, finally, pissed. On the one hand, it seemed unlikely that I’d soon be defiled and decapitated at the hands of a serial rapist-murderer. On the other hand, headlessfemalepig was clearly a deranged individual with a bizarre fixation on me. I picked up my phone and dialed 911.

Read the rest at the link. A number of women have written about this issue, and particularly about the lack of protection for women who are harassed on-line from law enforcement–even though the threats sometimes lead to real-life actions. A couple more recent examples:

Skepchick wrote in October about being harassed for her participation in the on-line atheist community, Why I Don’t Just Go to the Cops.

Amy Wallace wrote about her experiences in a NYT op-ed over the weekend: Life as a Female Journalist: Hot or Not?

Internet-Troll

Along similar lines, I came across this 2010 article in The Boston Globe that provides some insight into why some people spend so much time and energy writing angry comments on line: Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster. The author got an interview with a frequent commenter to The Boston Globe website. He also discusses the problems newspapers face in dealing with angry and trolling comments from anonymous people. Here’s an excerpt:

On Monday, May 17, at 2 p.m., a breaking news article headlined “Obama’s aunt given OK to stay in United States” hits the home page of Boston.com. In a matter of seconds, the first anonymous online comment appears. A reader with the handle of Peregrinite writes, “of course she can . . . can someone appeal.”

Certain topics never fail to generate a flood of impassioned reactions online: immigration, President Obama, federal taxes, “birthers,” and race. This story about Obama’s Kenyan aunt, who had been exposed as an illegal immigrant living in public housing in Boston and who was now seeking asylum, manages to pull strands from all five of those contentious subjects.

In the next few minutes, several equally innocuous posts follow, including a rare comment in favor of the judge’s decision. Then the name-calling begins. At 2:03 p.m., a commenter with the pseudonym of Craptulous calls the aunt, Zeituni Onyango, a “foreign free-loader.” Seconds later comes the lament from Redzone 300: “Just another reason to hate are [sic] corrupt government.”

News websites from across the country struggle to maintain civility in their online comments forums. But given their anonymous nature and anything-goes ethos, these forums can sometimes feel as ungovernable as the tribal lands of Pakistan.

Read much more at the link.

cyber2

Yesterday I also happened upon a fascinating article by national security and tech journalist Dan Verton. In the piece, Verton tries to come up with a psychological profile of NSA leaker Edward snowden: What does the history of insider espionage say about Edward Snowden?

He wasn’t the first and will certainly not be the last member of the U.S. intelligence community to betray the trust of his nation. But what do we really know about Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked thousands of documents detailing NSA’s domestic and global eavesdropping programs?

The truth is we know very little about Snowden beyond what the media outlets that have a vested interest in protecting him choose to report. But when viewed through the prism of the last 25 years of insider espionage, the Edward Snowden we do know seems to fit the typical profile of the trusted insider struggling to overcome personal and professional shortcomings, and suffering from a warped sense of moral superiority.

More than a decade worth of studies into the psychological profiles of malicious insiders have revealed several common characteristics that make information technology professionals — particularly system administrators, like Edward Snowden — an “at risk” population for malicious insider activity.

Verton discusses Snowden’s history in the light of a study of IT administrators who eventually sabotaged their employers in some way: Inside the Mind of the Insider, by Eric D. Shaw, Jerrold M. Post, and Keven G. Ruby. These are both fairly long pieces, but if you have any interest in the ongoing Snowden saga, they are must reads! A bit more from Verton:

Born in 1983, Snowden grew up in North Carolina and Maryland. His father was a Coast Guard officer and his mother worked as a court administrator. They divorced in 2001, and Snowden went to live with his mother. His parents claim Snowden was ill as a teenager and failed to graduate high school. He eventually studied at a local community college to obtain a G.E.D.

Snowden was 17 when al-Qaida launched its attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. At that time, he adopted an online persona he called “The One True Hooha” at the website Ars Technica, where he participated in chat forums for gamers and hackers. His studies at a local community college would once again fall short of a degree.

In 2003, Snowden decided to join the Army Reserve, and requested a chance to undergo evaluation training for Special Forces to, in his words, “fight to help free people from oppression.”

Yet again, the young Snowden would fall short. He was dropped from the program and discharged from the Army four months later. Snowden claims to have broken both of his legs during training, but to date has provided no evidence. The Army has confirmed his service, but would not release his service record summary, known as a DD-214.

“He comes from a family that has a high need for achievement, but his experience is one disaster after another,” Stock said.

Lots more educated speculation on Snowden’s motives at the link.

In other news . . .

Here’s a spy story I hadn’t heard about in the mainstream media. Report: Israel Passes U.S. Military Technology to China.

Secret U.S. missile and electro-optics technology was transferred to China recently by Israel, prompting anger from the U.S. and causing a senior Israeli defense official to resign.

The head of defense exports for the Israeli Defense Ministry resigned after a U.S. investigation concluded that technology, including a miniature refrigeration system manufactured by Ricor and used for missiles and in electro-optic equipment, was sent to China, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Another Israeli news site, Aretz Sheva, reports the U.S. is concerned the technology could ultimately find its way to Iran, which last year sought to buy military equipment from China for its nuclear program.

That sounds scarier than the stuff Glenn Greenwald has been dribbling out.

From The New Statesman, here’s an exhibit I’d love to see if only I were in London: A history of psychology, warts and mysteries and all.

It looks more like an art installation than the remains of a 400-year-old experiment: a life-size image of a man rendered in dark, angry scrawls on a wooden panel. It is, in fact, a human nervous system, painstakingly removed from a corpse by Italian medical students and then varnished on to the dissecting table. Scientists in the 17th century believed that human beings were animated by the “animal spirit” that flowed from the brain down the nerves.

The display is part of the “Mind Maps” exhibition at the Science Museum in London, which explores how people have tried to gain a better understanding of their minds.

That sounds amazing.

Finally, a funny story from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360: CNN reporter high during Anderson Cooper marijuana TV segment.

Poor Randi Kaye. The CNN reporter was sent to Denver for a week as part of the network’s “Gone to Pot” series, and in one of her later segments investigated dispensary tours that are being compared to Napa Valley wine tastings.

Kaye followed around a 72-year-old woman named Barbara Harvey, who is a huge fan of marijuana, and joined Harvey on a day-long dispensary tour where she spent much of her time in a limo being surrounded by people smoking marijuana with the windows rolled up. The CNN journalist tells Anderson Cooper she accidentally got a contact high after being stuck in a limo with Harvey for so long, though Cooper believes this is her “career highlight.”

At around the 4:30 mark in the above video, viewers can see Kaye in all her stoned glory. Kaye is all giggles and run-on sentences when talking about the cannabis business post-pot legalization in Colorado.

So . . . what are your recommended reads for today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.