Don’t blame Dakinikat for the lateness of this post. I volunteered to fill in for her today and then I ended up oversleeping.
I stayed up too late watching the New England Patriots come from behind to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. I had pretty much given up on the Pats at halftime when they were down 24-0. But once again Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rallied his team and once again showed Peyton Manning who’s boss.
Cindy Boren sums up what happened at The Washington Post:
For most of the country, Sunday night was cold. It’s the gateway to a big holiday week and, with the Denver Broncos blowing out the hapless New England Patriots on Sunday night, why not just turn in early?
Here’s the abbreviated version of what happened while you were sleeping: Trailing 24-0 at halftime, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 31 points in the second half, the Broncos scored to tie it and, with Bill Belichick making another of his unusual coaching decisions, the Patriots won 34-31 on a field goal that came off a turnover on a muffed punt with time running out in overtime. But it was a decision by Belichick that set up the Patriots. After winning the OT coin toss, he chose to take the wind — a stiff, brutally cutting wind — in a move that even his captains questioned.
There was a fierce wind blowing in the Boston area all day yesterday. It was coach Bill Belichick’s decision to give the ball to the Broncos, forcing Manning to either throw into the wind or and the ball off. It worked, and the Pats ended up winning on a field goal. It was incredible–only the fifth time in history a team has come back from 24 down at the half to win a game.
So, that’s my excuse for being late with the morning post. I know you’re probably not impressed . . .
Of course the weather here in New England is just a minor annoyance compared to much of the rest of the country. CNN reports: Nasty weather wallops much of U.S. just before Thanksgiving.
The wicked wintry weather that pummeled the West Coast is now barreling across the country, threatening to wreck millions of holiday travel plans just before Thanksgiving.
The storm has already contributed to at least 10 traffic fatalities.
Nearly 400 flights have been canceled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — not exactly a bastion for snowstorms. Sleet and freezing rain will keep blanketing parts of the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies on Monday.
New Mexico may be hit with 8 inches of snow!
And it’s headed our way next:
And after the storm deluges parts of the South with rain Monday evening, it’ll start zeroing in on the Northeast, the National Weather Service said. And that could spell more travel nightmares….
An Arctic air mass will probably keep temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal along the East Coast through Thursday. But even if the system fails to deliver heavy snow, fierce winds could still hamper air travel, forecasters said….
Heavy rain is expected to fall from Texas to Georgia on Monday and over the Carolinas on Monday night, with some sleet and snow mixed in for northern parts of that swath. The heaviest rain is expected across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
So be careful out there–especially you Sky Dancers in the southern half of the country.
In political news, the big story is the deal that the Obama administration has struck with Iran. Israel doesn’t like it one bit, and that means there will be objections in Congress. From Bloomberg via the SF Chronicle:
Israel’s rejection of the accord reached in Geneva by Iran and six leading nations over the weekend was swift. The agreement is a “historic mistake” that leaves the world “a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon,” Netanyahu said.
The first accord since the Iranian nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003 eases sanctions on Iran in return for concessions on its atomic work. Its six-month timetable is meant to give negotiators time to seek a comprehensive deal to halt Iranian nuclear work that they, like Israel, think is a cover to build weapons.
Israel will now focus on influencing the final deal as much as they possibly can.
“What Israel can do during this period is push the international community toward making the final deal as tough as it can, though it should do so far more quietly than it has in the past,” said Eilam, a retired brigadier-general.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News in Geneva that the agreement doesn’t take the threat of force off the table and rejected Israel’s position, articulated yesterday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, that the U.S. capitulated to Iranian deceit.
The agreement is “not based on trust. It’s based on verification,” with mechanisms in place to confirm whether Iran is in compliance, he said.
Kerry actually used many Congresspeople’s opposition to loosening sanctions on Iran to push the Iranians to make a deal. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
When Secretary of State John Kerry joined the nuclear negotiations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva last Saturday, he employed the oldest negotiating trick in the book, evoking Congress as the bad cop to the Obama administration’s good cop. Kerry told Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that if they failed to reach an agreement that day, the Obama administration would be unable to prevent Congress from passing additional sanctions against Iran. Less than 24 hours later, Kerry and Zarif walked into the hotel lobby to announce that they had struck a deal to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program.
In the face of criticism from members of Congress and the U.S.’s allies in the Middle East, Administration officials have insisted that the Geneva agreement is just the first step toward a more far-reaching disarmament deal. But such a deal will require that the Obama administration promise not just to forestall the imposition of new sanctions, but to dramatically reduce the sanctions already in place. And that depends on the cooperation of a Congress that has been singularly uninterested in assuming the role of good cop in the showdown with Iran.
The White House has some discretion to rescind the Iran sanctions without Congress’s approval. The method for removing any given set of sanctions depends on how those sanctions were passed in the first place. If they’re the product of an executive order, as many of the existing sanctions against Iran are, removing them requires only that the White House decide to stop enforcing them. That’s exactly how Obama will be making good on its promise to Iran, as part of last week’s interim agreement, to restore access to $7 billion held in foreign bank accounts….Removing sanctions that have been passed into law by Congress, however, is a much more difficult challenge. Despite the partisan gridlock in gridlock in Washington over the last several years, bipartisan majorities have managed to cooperate on three separate rounds of sanctions since 2010, including measures targeting Iran’s central bank, which Iran will undoubtedly want rescinded. Removing those laws from the books will force the White House to go through Congress all over again. That will require overcoming the partisanship and procedural hurdles that have consumed Congress in recent years.
I have to say, Obama is once again showing he has guts. If only he would use some of that to stand firm on domestic policies. The BBC reports that the Obama administration has been working toward this agreement for months through secret negotiations that SOS John Kerry was involved in while he was still chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I’m really curious to know what role Hillary Clinton played in these negotiations and whether she supports the deal, but I can’t find any information about that so far. Meanwhile, here’s a positive review from Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for strategic studies (IISS): The surprisingly good Geneva deal.
The deal reached in the early hours of the morning in Geneva on 24 November was better than I had expected, and better than would have been the case without France’s last-day intervention at the previous round two weeks earlier. I spent much of Sunday making the rounds of TV studios and fielding print-media interviews, explaining why opponents in Israel, the Gulf and US Congress should overcome their scepticism. The more I studied the deal, the more apparent it became to me that those who knock it probably did not want any agreement at all – at least not any deal that was within the realm of possibility.
The Geneva agreement is a good deal because Iran’s capabilities in every part of the nuclear programme of concern are capped, with strong verification measures. The terms require that for the next six months, no more centrifuges can be added, none of the advanced models that were previously installed can be turned on, the stockpiles of enriched uranium cannot increase, and work cannot progress on the research reactor at Arak, which is of concern because of the weapons-grade plutonium that would be produced there. Going well beyond normal verification rules, inspectors will be able to visit the key facilities on a daily basis and even have access to centrifuge production and assembly sites.
Moreover, the most worrisome part of the programme is being rolled back. Iran is suspending 20% enrichment, which is on the cusp of being weapons-usable, and neutralising the existing stockpile of 20% product, half through conversion to oxide form and half through blending down. Although the P5+1 had earlier asked for the stockpile to be exported, these measures will virtually accomplish the same purpose by eliminating the stockpile. Reversing these measures would take time.
Time is the essential variable of this deal. The net effect of the limits Iran has accepted is to double the time it would take for it to make a dash to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Without a deal, the break-out time might instead soon be halved.
Read the rest at the link.
Paul Krugman has a column up about some positives on the rollout of Obamacare and California as a “test case” for the program.
Now, California isn’t the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on HealthCare.gov are doing well. Kentucky’s Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn’t forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.
California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it’s huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it’s hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.
Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.
Krugman says that about 10,000 people are signing up per day, and the enrollment numbers show a balance between younger, healthier enrollees and those who are older and more likely to need health care.
So . . . it’s a somewhat slow news day as we head into the holiday season, but the Iran deal will give us something to talk about while the folks in Washington take their extra long vacations. I don’t even want to think about what will happen when they get back and start clashing over the debt ceiling again.
What interesting stories are you finding out there today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a good day despite the weather!
Happy Halloween Everyone!!
Last year at this time, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and this year a lesser but still “Monstrous Halloween storm” will “pelt the central US” from Texas up to the Midwest. My mom said authorities in Indiana have moved the official day for trick-or-treating to the weekend. Towns in Kentucky and Ohio are doing the same thing, according to USA Today.
Torrential rain, heavy thunderstorms and howling winds are forecast on Halloween all the way from Texas to the Midwest and interior sections of the Northeast, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Andy Mussoline.
Almost 42 million people could contend with severe thunderstorms Thursday, the Storm Prediction Center warns, with cities such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and Houston all at risk.
“Damaging winds and some tornadoes will be possible with what should be a complex and potentially messy storm,” according to an online forecast from the prediction center.
“The best costume in Houston for Halloween probably involves a garbage bag to keep dry,” reports WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue, who adds that it could be the wettest Halloween ever in some spots.
Read more at the link.
I have a few articles on the Halloween history and traditions for you. From National Geographic: Halloween 2013: Top Costumes, History, Myths, More.
Halloween’s origins date back more than 2,000 years. On what we consider November 1, Europe’s Celtic peoples celebrated their New Year’s Day, called Samhain (SAH-win).
On Samhain eve—what we know as Halloween—spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, and other creatures were also said to be abroad.
In addition to sacrificing animals to the gods and gathering around bonfires, Celts often wore costumes—probably animal skins—to confuse spirits, perhaps to avoid being possessed, according to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress.
By wearing masks or blackening their faces, Celts are also thought to have impersonated dead ancestors.
Young men may have dressed as women and vice versa, marking a temporary breakdown of normal social divisions.
In an early form of trick-or-treating, Celts costumed as spirits are believed to have gone from house to house engaging in silly acts in exchange for food and drink—a practice inspired perhaps by an earlier custom of leaving food and drink outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings.
Samhain was later co-opted by the Catholic Church when the Church moved “All Saints Day” from May to November 1. Scots-Irish immigrants brought Halloween customs with them to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The History Channel has a more detailed article on the history of Halloween:
The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
On Halloween traditions in the US:
In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.
In Europe jack-o-lanterns were made of turnips and other vegetables, since pumpkins were found only in the Americas. On the custom of “trick or treating” in the US:
The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.
The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
A few more interesting links to explore:
National Geographic: First Halloween Costumes: Skins, Skulls, and Skirts
The Boston Globe: Seven Books About the History of Halloween
Amanda Hess at Slate: It’s Irony, not sexy, that’s ruining Halloween
Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story: Obligatory Halloween Post On Skimpy Costumes
In other news . . .
In the wake of the Travon Martin killing, Sanford FL has banned neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns.
SANFORD – More than a year and a half after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the city of Sanford is making major changes to its neighborhood watch program, including banning volunteers from carrying guns while on patrol, and forbidding them from pursuing anyone in their neighborhoods.
Sanford’s new police chief, Cecil Smith, said the neighborhood watch program as it was operated while Zimmerman was part of it was dysfunctional and had no accountability.
“In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual,” Smith explained. “In this new program, it clearly indicates that you will not carry a firearm when performing your duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant.”
Smith said when he took over as Sanford’s chief of police in April, the neighborhood watch program Zimmerman was part of was still operating the same way it was when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin more than a year earlier.
Sounds like an excellent idea.
The program, exposed through Edward Snowden’s leaks, relied on a broad, decades-old executive orderand allowed the NSA access to data-center connections in secret outside the United States, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story. Asked about the leak, Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA’s leader, said earlier Wednesday he was unaware of the Post’s report — adding the NSA is “not authorized” to access companies data centers and instead must “go through a court process” to obtain such content.
The NSA, meanwhile, emphasized it hadn’t tried to circumvent U.S. law under the executive order, known by its numerical designation, 12333. “The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true,” a spokeswoman said. But the NSA aide declined to discuss further whether the agency — perhaps under other authorities — had infiltrated data center connections at all.
Google and Yahoo both told the Post it hadn’t granted the NSA access to its data centers. Both companies did not immediately comment for this story.
Based on past history of Glenn Greenwald and other reporters neglecting to report that NSA surveillance requires individual warrants, I’m going to assume that this is another instance of this kind of melodramatic “reporting.” I guess it will all come out eventually, since Congress is now investigating and the drip drip drip of leaks continues.
Meanwhile, “progressives” who are panicking over NSA spying continue to ignore vitally important issues that affect millions of Americans–poverty and hunger for examples. From MSNBC: America’s new hunger crisis.
In the 22 years that Swami Durga Das has managed New York’s River Fund Food Pantry, he has never seen hunger like this. Each Saturday, hundreds of hungry people descend on the pantry’s headquarters, an unassuming house on a residential block. The first people arrive around 2 am, forming a line that will wrap around the block before Das even opens his doors.
“Each week there’s new people,” Das told MSNBC.com. “The numbers have just skyrocketed.”
The new clients are diverse—working people, seniors, single mothers—but many of them share something in common: they represent the millions of Americans who fell victim to food insecurity when the Great Recession hit in 2009, but didn’t benefit from the economic recovery.
And the worst may be yet to come.
Food activists expect a “Hunger Cliff” on November 1, when automatic cuts to food stamp benefits will send a deluge of new hungry people to places like the River Fund Food Pantry, which are already strained.
“I thought we were busy now; I don’t know what it will be like then, because all of those people getting cut will definitely be accessing a pantry,” said Das. “It definitely will be a catastrophe.”
Please go read the whole thing.
Finally, here’s an interesting article about Ted Cruz by David Denby of The New Yorker: THE MASK OF SINCERITY.
When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles. He attains an appearance of supplication, an earnest desire that men and women need to listen, as God surely listens. Cruz has large ears; a straight nose with a fleshy tip, which shines in camera lights when he talks to reporters; straight black hair slicked back from his forehead like flattened licorice; thin lips; a long jaw with another knob of flesh at the base, also shiny in the lights. If, as Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves at fifty, Cruz, who is only forty-two, has got a serious head start. For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.
Cruz is not as iconographically satisfying as other American demagogues—Oliver North, say, whose square-jawed, unblinking evocation of James Stewart, John Wayne, and other Hollywood actors conveyed resolution. Or Ronald Reagan—Cruz’s reedy, unresonant voice lacks the husky timbre of Reagan’s emotion-clouded instrument, with its mixture of truculence and maudlin appeal.
Yet Cruz is amazingly sure-footed verbally. When confronted with a hostile question, he has his answer prepared well before the questioner stops talking. There are no unguarded moments, no slips or inadvertent admissions. He speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him? His father is a Baptist, and Cruz himself has an evangelical cast to his language, but he’s an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people’s sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people’s vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts. If they have a shortage of vulnerabilities, he might make some up.
Read the rest at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? And what are you doing to celebrate Halloween? Please let us know in the comment thread.
I got about a foot of snow dumped on me by the latest storm, when the prediction the day before had been for about 3-5 inches. Boy were the predictions wrong for this one! Last night the Boston Globe weather blogger tried to explain “Why was there so much more snow than predicted?”
Now that the big storm is over, I am looking at why this was such a poor forecast. The basic reason was a bit more cold air than expected, more moisture and it lasted longer. No one expected so much snow to fall from 4 AM this morning until mid-afternoon. Storms usually need to be at roughly 40 degrees latitude and 70 degrees west longitude to give us a major snow event. Meteorologists around here call this the benchmark. If a storm passes near the benchmark, and it’s cold enough, we are often in for a good snowstorm. This storm passed hundreds of miles further east than that typical spot for a major snowstorm. One of the reasons I was confident in not seeing this size snowstorm, was the predicted distance of the storm from our area. That prediction by the models turned out to be pretty good. Temperatures were also forecast to be about 4 degrees milder. As it turn out, it’s sort of a good thing it ended up being colder because heavy wet snow of these amounts would have been catastrophic to the power situation.
I see . . . well, not really. Anyway, the stuff is melting already which is a good thing, because I wasn’t able to shovel my driveway out completely yesterday. We’re supposed to get temperatures in the 40s and 50s for the next few days, so I guess that will rescue me. Now what’s in the news today?
I see that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is really full of himself after his “talking filibuster” the other day.
He’s got an op-ed in the Washington Post bragging, “My filibuster was just the beginning.”
If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.
I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.
I certainly agree that the president shouldn’t have the power to kill Americans without due process, but I’d be more impressed with Paul if he supported other constitutional rights like equal treatment under the law for minorities, women and LGBT people. I can’t take anyone seriously as a defender of the Constitution if he opposes civil rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.
According to Grace Wyler at Business Insider, Libertarians Believe Their Moment Has Finally Arrived. On the other hand, Chris Cillizza explains why Why the Rand Paul filibuster might not be such good news for the GOP.
Sequestration cuts, anyone?
While the Village media types focus on either fawning over or condemning Rand Paul’s performance, local journalists around the country are reporting on the damage being done by sequestration cuts.
The debate over sequestration this past week has come down to two questions: Was the administration exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and did they really need to shut down White House tours because of them?
It’s been the predominant theme at the White House briefings, a constant subject of discussion on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even took up the cause at a press briefing this week, saying: “I think it’s silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own.”
Beneath that debate, however, is a different type of conversation about the impact of the $85 billion in cuts. While the national media has focused on those two questions, local coverage has been more directed at the tangible impact the budget restraints will have. The Huffington Post reviewed dozens of local television news broadcasts, using the service TVeyes.com, to survey coverage of sequestration outside of the Beltway.
Check out the many examples of real pain for localities at the link. And besides, according to Buzzfeed, Nobody Liked The White House Tours That Much Anyway. They’re only rated 3.5 on Yelp. Read the negative reviews at the link.
Interesting book review at The Daily Beast
They were the employees of the gigantic uranium-enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.—those who lived and toiled in this purpose-built secret city in the Appalachian Mountains, many of them young women, had only been told that their efforts would help bring home American soldiers. Then, when atomic power was deployed against an enemy nation for the first (and so far, last) time, Oak Ridge residents realized what they had been working toward, and why their every move had been monitored, their every utterance policed, and their every question stonewalled.
In The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan recreates, with cinematic vividness and clarity, the surreal Orwell-meets-Margaret Atwood environment of Oak Ridge as experienced by the women who were there. They were secretaries, technicians, a nurse, a statistician, a leak pipe inspector, a chemist, and a janitor. “Site X” began construction in late 1942, and was also known as the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW) and the Reservation. Staff members were recruited from all over the U.S., but particularly from nearby Southern states, and were offered higher than average wages, on-site housing and cafeterias, and free buses.
More importantly, they were offered the chance to join the 400,000 or so American women performing non-combatant roles in the armed services, as well as those keeping vital industries afloat and helping the men on the front lines. But whereas a female Air Force pilot or munitions factory worker understood precisely her contributions to the war effort, the women at Oak Ridge were kept in the dark about the actual purpose of their workplace, a mystery heightened by the apparent lack of anything ever leaving the site. Provided with “just enough detail to do their job well, and not an infinitesimal scrap more,” workers at all levels were forbidden from taking the slightest interest in anyone else’s duties. “Stick to your knitting,” in the words of Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, head of the Project.
That sounds like a fascinating book!
ABC News reports on a scary new virus–the coronaviris.
Health officials are warning of a new virus that has sickened at least 14 people worldwide, killing eight of them.
There are no known American cases of the coronavirus, known as hCoV-EMC, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is urging doctors with patients who have an unexplained respiratory illness after traveling to the Arabian peninsula or neighboring countries to report the cases to the CDC.
Doctors should also report patients with known diseases who don’t respond to appropriate treatment, the agency said its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Close contacts of a symptomatic patient should also be evaluated.
The novel virus, which is associated with severe respiratory illness with renal failure, was first recognized last September and caused alarm because it is genetically and clinically similar to the SARS virus, which caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.
Read more at the CDC website.
A new archaeological theory about Stonehenge
Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, according to a theory disclosed on Saturday.
More than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.
The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that, he claims.
It had been thought that almost all the Stonehenge burials, many originally excavated almost a century ago, but discarded as unimportant, were of adult men. However, new techniques have revealed for the first time that they include almost equal numbers of men and women, and children including a newborn baby.
I’ll end with this “chart of the day” from Business Insider:
I hope that’s enough to get you started on the day. Please share your recommended reads in the comments. I look forward to clicking on your links!
Have a great weekend!!
I have to take my daughter to her dentist appointment in Atlanta this afternoon, so I am writing this post early…way early! If any of these links I have to share with you are repeats, sorry about that.
By now everyone has heard the shocking news out of Vatican City: Pope Benedict surprises world, steps down citing frailty
Pope Benedict surprised the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry, becoming the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages and leaving his aides “incredulous”.
The 85-year-old German-born Pope, hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months.
A Vatican spokesman said the Pope had not resigned because of “difficulties in the papacy” and the decision had been a surprise, indicating that even his closest aides were unaware that he was about to quit. The Pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, the spokesman said.
After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and social media sites, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
Fox News had this picture up with its article reporting Benedict’s resignation: Pope Benedict to become first pontiff in 600 years to resign
Innit cute? Almost like he is taking his hat off in a goodbye salute…its a much better image for this story than the picture that Fox News had up earlier this week on a story about traditional gender roles.
This afternoon, author Jessica Valenti hilariously pointed out that a Fox News column about traditional gender roles in marriage is accidentally accompanied by a photograph of two lesbian newly-weds exchanging a kiss.
The FoxNews.com column in question was written by Suzanne Venker, the niece of social conservative hero Phyllis Schlafly, and previous author of the roundly-panned column on how it’s all women’s fault that there is a “battle of the sexes.”
Venker’s latest column, titled “To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’” laments that in modern marriage, “men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what,” all because of “feminists” who preach a “new way” of thinking about gender. Men and women now believe they can do the same things “without ramifications,” she wrote:
“Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”
Knowing the author and subject of the column, it’s pretty much a given that the featured image is an unintentional (but, indeed, hilarious) inclusion:
Turns out, that’s a stock image of Alaskan same-sex couple Stephanie Figarelle and Lela McArthur, who were wed atop the Empire State Building early last year…
Fox eventually took the picture down and replaced it with the generic stick figure image you usually see on restroom doors:
Oh well, it was funny while it lasted.
Now a couple of weather stories…
You need to click the links to these next articles because they are a bit too involved to quote from.
It happened again.
A major storm hit the northeast U.S. and the U.S. global model lagged badly behind the predictions of the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) . Just as with Sandy.
For a century, schoolchildren have been taught that the massive ocean current known as the Gulf Stream carries warm water from the tropical Atlantic Ocean to northwestern Europe. As it arrives, the water heats the air above it. That air moves inland, making winter days in Europe milder than they are in the northeastern U.S.
It might be time to retire that tidy story.
This next article makes me think of the scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail…the one where the old lady is beating the cat against the wall…Do Not Try to Recreate This 16th-Century German Cat Bomb at Home
Illustration, cat and bird with rocket packs (University of Pennsylvania).Think you’re the first person to consider the offensive capabilities of cats and birds in a hypothetical war against zombies space invaders enemies of the Holy Roman Empire? Think again!
The Germans beat you to it by about 425 years, as proven by this painting, which BibliOdyssey found and The Appendix Journal posted to its Tumblr. The manuscript from which it was drawn was called “Feuer Buech,” which I’m guessing translates from the old German to English as “Fire Book.” It’s a “treatise on munitions and explosive devices, with many illustrations of the various devices and their uses.”
Well, I am not sure how they could get the cat to walk into the fortification on its own…it probably would need to get a little help from its friends:
Since we had a cat story, how about a dog story? According to the BBC: Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers
Dogs are more capable of understanding situations from a human’s point of view than has previously been recognised, according to researchers.
They found dogs were four times more likely to steal food they had been forbidden, when lights were turned off so humans in the room could not see.
This suggested the dogs were able to alter their behaviour when they knew their owners’ perspective had changed.
I wonder if a dog would alter their behavior because a human put a rocket backpack on it?*
The experiments had been trying to find whether dogs could adapt their behaviour in response to the changed circumstances of their human owners.
It wanted to see if dogs had a “flexible understanding” that could show they understood the viewpoint of a human.
*Note, my comment was snarky and not in the best of taste, but I needed to put some perspective on these stories. Animals have been used during wartime throughout history.
Check this out: 6 Insane Uses of Animals in Wartime (That Actually Worked) **
(**Uh, just a post script to my note….that link goes to a 2011 Cracked Magazine post, but they cite real articles and state true facts, go figure!)
Last story for you this afternoon, and it deals with a monster from the reptile world…no it is not another story about the Church, World’s largest crocodile dies in Philippines
February 11, 2013 Lolong, world’s largest saltwater crocodile in captivity, pictured in Bunawan, the Philippines, on September 21, 2011 Enlarge Lolong, a one-tonne, 6.17 metres crocodile believed to be the biggest to have ever been caught, is seen in a caged pen in the southern Philippine town of Bunawan, on September 21, 2011. Lolong has died, 17 months after the suspected man-eater was hunted down and put on display for tourists, according to his caretakers.
You may remember this beast from a story I shared with you a couple of years ago: Monster crocodile gets own park in Philippines
Philippine villagers examine the giant crocodile after its capture on September 4. A monster crocodile which is reputedly the world’s largest is the star attraction at its own nature park which opened in the Philippines this weekend, weeks after the beast’s capture.
That is one picture I haven’t forgotten, I am pretty sure you probably haven’t forgotten it either. Oooof!
This is an open thread…
This is going to start out as a self-centered, nostalgic post. I hope it doesn’t bore you too much. I’ll post some current news links down below.
Thirty-five years ago today, the Boston area was buried under about four-and-a-half feet of snow in the wake of the Blizzard of ’78. When the storm started on Feb. 6, we already had at least 2 feet of snow on the ground. When it was over, amounts ranging from 29-36 additional inches of the white stuff had fallen, depending on where you lived. We didn’t even know it was coming. Famed Channel 4 weatherman Don Kent had predicted just a normal snowfall.
By afternoon it was clear that this was a “storm of the century” situation. Kids were sent home from school and workers left work early. Unfortunately, there were hurricane-force winds and the the snow was falling 1-2 inches per hour. Hundreds of commuters were stranded on Route 128 (AKA I-95).
Here’s audio from WBZ radio’s Gary LaPierre and Gil Santos talking about the storm, followed by Don Kent’s updated weather forecast. Love those Boston accents!
Governor Michael Dukakis declared a state of emergency on Feb. 6th and then renewed it on Feb. 7. Finally he ordered the entire state shut down for a week. No one was allowed to drive except for emergency vehicles. Employers were ordered to pay their employees for the lost time.
Here’s part of a local report on the storm toward the end of the week. Check out the cardigan on Governor Dukakis!
In those days, I lived on a narrow street in Somerville on the second floor of a two-family house. When the storm was over, you couldn’t even tell there was a street. The snow stretched straight across from the front porch of our house to the front porch of the house across the way. There was no way anyone was going to come and clear of our little street, so we all went out and dug out the street as best we could. Toward the end of the week, the plows came and then later the loaders came to cart the snow away. There was no place to put it.
Anyone who lived through the Blizzard of ’78 remembers where they were and what they were doing when the storm started. It was a disaster, especially along the coast; but for those of us who didn’t lose our power and got a week off work or school it was kind of fun in a way. As always in disasters, people pulled together and found things to laugh about.
The reason why I’ve been thinking about that long-ago storm is that there’s a nor’easter bearing down on New England on Friday and Saturday. We’re already under a blizzard watch beginning Friday morning and going through late Saturday afternoon. From AccuWeather.com: Blizzard to Bury New England at the End of the Week
Two storms will merge quickly enough to bring colder air, heavy snow and increasing wind to New England. Some areas will be hit with an all-out blizzard and a couple of feet of snow….
Strong winds will not only cause white-out conditions but can result in massive drifts.
At the height of the storm, snow can fall at the rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour and may be accompanied by thunder and lightning.
Of course you never know with these nor’easters. It could be a snowpocalypse or it could be a complete bust.
The intense snowfall rate anticipated is making the forecast especially challenging. A matter of an hour of intense snow versus 8 hours of intense snow will make the difference between a manageable few inches and a debilitating few feet of of snow. Nearby to the southeast of this intense snow, rain will be falling for a time.
It probably won’t be as bad as the one in ’78, but it could drop more than a foot of snow and possibly more than two feet of snow on the Boston area. So wish me luck!
Now for a little current news.
I’m not sure why there has been such a sudden furore in the corporate media about Obama’s having claimed the power to assassinate American citizens, since we’ve known about this for years now. But I guess once The New York Times decides to discuss it, the rest of the media automatically follows suit.
It was the topic of the day yesterday, and after massive pressure President Obama has said he will let Congress see the legal memos justifying the policy. The LA Times reports:
WASHINGTON — President Obama, who has championed lethal drone strikes as a major part of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, bowed to pressure Wednesday and agreed to allow the Senate and House intelligence committees to review classified legal memos used to justify a drone strike against a U.S. citizen in Yemen in 2011.
Senators had demanded for months to see the Justice Department opinions that provided the White House legal authority to order the targeted killing of Anwar Awlaki, a New Mexico native who became an Al Qaeda leader.
Complaints by several Democrats over not receiving the documents had cast a shadow on the Senate confirmation hearing Thursday of John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism advisor tapped to be CIA director.
An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified material, described the decision to release the classified Office of Legal Counsel material as “part of the president’s ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters.”
Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine: Why the New York Times Outed a Secret U.S. Drone Base Now
When the New York Times revealed the location of the U.S.’s top-secret drone base in Saudi Arabia today, after months of keeping the information quiet, the other most important news outlets in the country sheepishly admitted they’d known about it, too. Along with the Washington Post, which said it had “an informal arrangement” with the government for more than a year, the Associated Press added last night that it “first reported the construction of the base in June 2011 but withheld the exact location at the request of senior administration officials.” Asked why the Times acted now, the paper’s managing editor Dean Baquet told public editor Margaret Sullivan it was simple: John Brennan’s big day.
“It was central to the story because the architect of the base and drone program is nominated to head the C.I.A.,” Baquet explained. Brennan’s confirmation hearings start tomorrow, and the Times decided it was important to discuss his pivotal role in U.S. operations in Yemen, where dozens of suspected terrorists have been targeted by drones, beforehand.
Previously, the government worried that the Saudis “might shut it down because the citizenry would be very upset,” so when the location “was a footnote,” the Times complied, Baquet said. “We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.” (Fox News, too, appears to have published the Saudi Arabian base location briefly in 2011 before switching to the more general “Arabian Peninsula.”)
Remember when the media was “the fourth estate?” Now they’re just part of the government. Amy Davidson has a thoughtful piece on the DOJ white paper: WHOM CAN THE PRESIDENT KILL?
About a third of the way into in a Department of Justice white paper explaining why and when the President can kill American citizens, there is a citation that should give a reader pause. It comes in a section in which the author of the document, which was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last year—and obtained by Michael Isikoff, of NBC, on Monday—says that this power extends into every country in the world other than the United States, well beyond those where we are engaged in hostilities. The reference is to an address that John R. Stevenson, a State Department legal adviser, gave before the Association of the Bar in New York in May, 1970, to justify the Nixon Administration’s incursion into Cambodia. Does that make everyone, or anyone, feel better about what the Obama Administration has decided it can do, or the extent to which it thought through the implications, unintended consequences, precedents, and random reckless damage it may be delivering with this policy?
The white paper is a summary of something that had long been sought: the Obama Administration’s legal analysis of its killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen who was hit by a drone strike in 2011. That memo has been described to reporters but never released. It needs to be. The question isn’t whether al-Awlaki, who worked with Al Qaeda, was an innocent—the question is at what point he crossed the line and became killable without any judicial proceedings, and when, by extension, the rest of us could be put on a “kill list.”
The whole article is well worth reading.
Here’s a little Karma for you: Go Daddy sued over revenge-porn site
Go Daddy has been named lead defendant in a Texas lawsuit filed by 17 women whose nude photos were published without their permission on a “revenge porn” website hosted by the Scottsdale-based company.
The lawsuit exposes an obscure Internet pornography niche that often involves jilted ex-boyfriends posting nude or semi-nude cellphone pictures of their former girlfriends, with each photo usually accompanied by personal information such as the woman’s name and city of residence.
Regardless of the lawsuit’s merits, legal analysts said, it’s unlikely the case will stand against Go Daddy, which merely hosted revenge-porn site Texxxan.com. Go Daddy hosts roughly 50 million websites.
What a shame. At least they’ll be inconvenienced by having to go to court and paying for legal representation.
John Nichols at the Nation discusses the Republican austerity agenda that is bringing down the Post Office.
The austerity agenda that would cut services for working Americans in order to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy—and promote the privatization of public services—has many faces.
Most Americans recognize the threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as pieces of the austerity plan advanced by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the rest of the Ayn Rand–reading wrecking crew that has taken over the Republican Party. But it is important to recognize that the austerity agenda extends in every direction: from threats to Food Stamps and Pell Grants, to education cuts, to the squeezing of transportation funding.
But the current frontline of the austerity agenda is the assault on the US Postal Service, a vital public service that is older than the country. And it is advancing rapidly. On Wednesday, the Postal Service announced that Saturday first-class mail delivery is scheduled for elimination at the beginning of August—the latest and deepest in a series of cuts that threatens to so undermine the service that it will be ripe for bartering off to the private delivery corporations that have long coveted its high-end components.
“USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization,” declares American Postal Workers Union president Cliff Guffey.
Obviously, it’s also another GOP effort to put labor unions out of business. Don’t they need to explain how they have the power to destroy a government entity that was enshrined in the Constitution by the founders of this country?
Have you heard about the crazy freak who’s running for the Senate seat in Georgia that will be vacated by Saxby Chambliss? Alex Parene: Paul Broun enters Georgia Senate race
You know that unfair caricature elite coastal liberals have of conservatives as a bunch of mouth-breathing idiot religious fanatic white Southern racists? Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., is that guy we’re all thinking of, and we’re about to see if that caricature can make it to the U.S. Senate….
If recent history is any indication, Broun and all of his primary competitors — very likely a bunch of extremely conservative white men — will fight to see who can out-true conservative the others. In that fight, Broun has some huge advantages, because he is loudly and proudly stupid and extremist.
A couple of Broun’s greatest hits:
That’s all I have for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?