Friday Reads

morning-coffee

Good Morning!!

 

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.

Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).

Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.

While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.

I hope they’re right!

Now for the latest Ebola news . . .

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Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.

A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”

The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”

Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.

In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”

Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.

The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.

The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.

Amber Vinson

Amber Vinson

According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.

After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”

Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.

“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.

“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”

In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….

“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

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A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.

His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.

Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….

“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”

World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.

In other news . . .

Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.

The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.

Bill Clinton stumps for Coakley

I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.

WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.

Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.

“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”

Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.

“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.

Now we just need Hillary to show up.

How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:

Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.

But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.

In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.

“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.

He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.

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According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.

The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.

“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.

The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”

Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!

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Tuesday Reads: More Snow, Mystery Plane, Joe McGinniss, Ed Snowden, and Ukraine Crisis

A Snowy Harvard Square in 1969

A Snowy Harvard Square in 1969

Good Morning!!

I’ve had a scary couple of days. I woke up on Sunday morning to find my house very cold. I soon realized there was something wrong with my furnace. It was still running and there was hot air coming out of the vents, but it wasn’t pushing out enough heat to warm up the house. It turned out the blower motor had died.

Why is it these things always seem to happen on a weekend or holiday? Luckily it hasn’t been terribly cold so I’ve managed to stay relatively comfortable by wearing lots of layers and using a portable electric heater. I was able to find someone to come and fix it yesterday. I got so relaxed that I overslept this morning, and so this post is going to be late.

So now I’m completely broke but warm, and I’m prepared for the upcoming snowstorm. Yes, the Weather Channel is predicting another one and has given it one of those annoying names. You can check out the predicted impact on your area in this summary article, Winter Storm Vulcan Forecast: Long Swath of Snow Across Rockies, Midwest, Northeast. I can only hope this one turns out to be a bust like the last one. Otherwise, I’ll be shoveling snow again on Friday.

The story of the missing Malaysion plane continues. Here are the latest reports:

missing-plane-graphic

Reuters (via Nipawin Journal): Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast: Source

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s military believes a jetliner missing for almost four days turned and flew hundreds of kilometres to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast, a senior officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.

“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the senior military officer, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

That would appear to rule out sudden catastrophic mechanical failure, as it would mean the plane flew around 500 km (350 miles) at least after its last contact with air traffic control, although its transponder and other tracking systems were off.

A non-military source familiar with the investigations said the report was one of several theories and was being checked.

Authorities are pretty sure there was no terrorism involved. At least one of the men with stolen passports was an asylum-seeker from Iran.

CBS News: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 search widens; men carrying stolen passports ID’d as young Iranians

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – At least one of the two men traveling on a missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner was an Iranian asylum seeker, officials said Tuesday, as baffled authorities expanded their search for the Boeing 777 on the opposite side of the country from where it disappeared nearly four days ago with 239 people on board.

In the absence of any sign that the plane was in trouble before it vanished, speculation has ranged widely, including pilot error, plane malfunction, hijacking and terrorism, the last because two passengers were traveling on stolen passports. The terrorism theory weakened after Malaysian authorities determined that one of the two men was an Iranian asylum seeker.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said at a news conference Tuesday that the international police agency had identified two Iranian men, Pouri Nour Mohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29. Noble said based on investigations carried out into the men to date, they were “probably not terrorists.” The chief of police in Kuala Lumpur said earlier in the day that Mohamadi was apparently trying to fly to Europe as an asylum seeker.

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing. It flew overland across Malaysia and crossed the eastern coast into the Gulf of Thailand at 35,000 feet. There it disappeared from radar screens. The airline says the pilots didn’t send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden and possibly catastrophic incident.

hotshot_selling-of-the-president-1968

I was surprised and saddened last night to learn that Joe McGinniss has died at 71 of complications from inoperable prostate cancer. McGinniss was only 26 when his first book The Selling of the President 1968 hit the bestseller lists. I bought the book and read it way back then. I couldn’t put it down. Same thing with his pathbreaking true crime book on the Jeffrey MacDonald case, Fatal Vision. From the AP obituary (via First Post World),  ‘Fatal Vision’ author Joe McGinniss passes away at 71.

McGinniss was a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1968 when an advertising man told him he was joining Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. Intrigued that candidates had advertising teams, McGinniss was inspired to write a book and tried to get access to Humphrey. The Democrat turned him down, but, according to McGinniss, Nixon aide Leonard Garment allowed him in, one of the last times the ever-suspicious Nixon would permit a journalist so much time around him. Garment and other Nixon aides were apparently unaware, or unconcerned, that McGinniss’ heart was very much with the anti-war agitators the candidate so despised.

The Republican’s victory that fall capped a once-unthinkable comeback for the former vice president, who had declared six years earlier that he was through with politics. Having lost the 1960 election in part because of his pale, sweaty appearance during his first debate with John F. Kennedy and aware of his reputation as a partisan willing to play dirty, Nixon had restricted his public outings and presented himself as a new and more mature candidate.

McGinniss was far from the only writer to notice Nixon’s reinvention, but few offered such raw and unflattering details. “The Selling of the President” was a sneering rebuttal to Theodore H. White’s stately “Making of the President” campaign books. It revealed Nixon aides, including future Fox News chief Roger Ailes, disparaging vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, drafting memos on how to fix Nixon’s “cold” image and debating which black man — only one would be permitted — was right for participating in a televised panel discussion.

Historian David Greenberg wrote in “Nixon’s Shadow,” published in 2003, that McGinniss “sneaked in under the radar screen, presenting himself to Nixon’s men as such an insignificant fly on the wall that they never thought to swat him away.”

McGinnis was criticized for getting too close to Jeffrey McDonald and somehow betraying him, but I think McGinnis got it right. His contract stated that he would have full independence. He started out thinking McDonald could be innocent of the murders of his wife and two daughters, and he had an inside track on the defense; but in the end McGinnis concluded that MacDonald was guilty and wrote about his change of heart in the book.

Colette, Kimberly, and Kristin MacDonald

Colette, Kimberly, and Kristin MacDonald

From Reuters:

His 1983 book “Fatal Vision” became a classic of the true crime genre and was based on unlimited access he gained to former Green Beret Jeffrey MacDonald and his attorneys during MacDonald’s 1979 murder trial in the deaths of his pregnant wife and two young daughters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

MacDonald, who at the time of the 1970 killings was an Army doctor, was found guilty and is serving three life sentences.

He has maintained the murders were committed by drug-crazed intruders. McGinniss had begun by expressing support for MacDonald but ended by concluding in his book that he was guilty of killing his family.

“I kept trying to find any reason I could to believe that he was not guilty,” McGinniss testified at a 2012 court hearing where MacDonald sought to be granted a new trial.

New Yorker magazine writer Janet Malcolm, in a 1989 article, accused McGinnis of displaying the underside of journalism by deceiving MacDonald with a show of support and then betraying his confidence, an argument McGinnis vehemently denied.

A terrific writer has left us far too soon.

Edward Snowden has been making more virtual appearances than a best-selling author on a publicity tour. Yesterday he was at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin Texas. I’m sure everyone here knows I’m not a fan of the pale and nerdy defector, so I’ll spare you my editorial comments and just give you a couple few links.

From Politico’s Josh Gerstein: Snowden Inc.

First, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden popped up in Hong Kong. Then, Russia. By Monday, the fugitive from justice, a man regularly accused of treason, was in Austin, Texas, hitting the nation’s hottest tech festival — via the Web, of course.

“They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden warned darkly, in jerky video relayed through a series of proxies from an undisclosed location in Russia. With an image of the U.S. Constitution projected behind him, he urged the tech-savvy SXSW attendees to ride to the rescue against rampant surveillance by the NSA and others. “The people who are in this room, now, you guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help fight this,” he said, sounding every bit the geek as he described various encryption applications he believes should get wider use.

Snowden was painstaking in how he assembled a huge trove of top-secret documents while working as a tech contractor at an NSA facility in Hawaii. And he’s been equally deliberate in the way he and the team around him have crafted and cultivated his public image — controlling and carefully managing how he’s been perceived by the public in the months since he burst into the spotlight. It’s an endeavor that’s involved everything from coordinated efforts to beat back Obama administration attacks to the careful parceling out of tantalizing tidbits about his everyday life.

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Snowden is campaigning for clemency; but frankly, I hope he ends up stuck in Russia for life. Ooops! Sorry, that’s my last nasty comment. A couple more links:

The Verge: Edward Snowden: ‘Would I do it again? Absolutely yes’

The Washington Post: ‘They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet’

I’ll wrap this up with some interesting articles on the crisis in Ukraine.

Putin biographer Masha Gessen at the LA Times, Is Vladimir Putin insane? Hardly. He is merely acting the way he always has, like a playground bully.

Politico, Bill Clinton no fan of ‘crazy’ moves on Ukraine

Financial Times, Ukraine is a test case for American power: If the Chinese leadership were ever to ‘do a Putin’, how could the US and allies react?

Robert Shrum at The Daily Beast, Obama’s All Eisenhower On Russia: Like Ike before him, Obama’s non-moves against Russia are the right moves.

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!

Sunday Reads: All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young.

Good Morning

February is one of the best months on TCM…the title of this post is a line from the movie Twelve O’Clock High (1949).

It is the first scene after the real footage of bombing raids shot by both the US allies and German combat film during the war. One of the administrators is drunk, and talking about all the letters he has written to the families of the airmen who have died. There have been so many of them….

Major Harvey Stovall: That is not why I am drunk tonight. I got drunk because I am confused. I was thinking, which is a thing a man should not do, and all at once I couldn’t remember what any of them looked like. I, I couldn’t see their faces, Bishop, Cobb, Wilson, Zimmy, all of them. All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young. It confused me. I think I shall stay drunk until I’m not confused anymore.

“And it was very young.” That one sentence made me cry….78b85ed95ea84893a3e8ec6d7d08c150

Last night, this film from 1949 about World War II, something that I have seen so many times before…I even own the DVD.  For some reason that one line hit me more this viewing than all the other times I have seen this movie.  Why?

I don’t know…It is strange. Well, my grandfather was a mechanic on those planes during the war, so I guess that is why I always was fond of that movie. There was a connection to it.

You can see some more color pictures here: World War II in Color: American Bombers and Their Crews, 1942 | LIFE.com

As a jumping off point for countless bombing runs, including many in broad daylight, the United States Army Air Forces (the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) set up bases in England during the war. In 1942, LIFE’s Margaret Bourke-White spent time with the Bomber Command — an assignment that LIFE shared with its readers in an October 1942 feature notable, although hardly surprising, all these years later for its triumphant tone:

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

The most potent U.S. force to hit the Nazis so far in this war is the Bomber Command, stationed in England. Operating Flying Fortresses, it is making attacks on German-occupied Europe as frequently as weather and operating conditions permit. To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, it has given a superb exhibition of precision bombing by hitting German factories, airfields, ships and oil refineries on the nose. In two months of operations, it has shot down more than 100 German fighters, lost less than six of its own bombers.

[NOTE: As the war dragged on, the bombers and their crews out of England would, inevitably, face steeper and more dramatic losses. On October 14, 1943, for example — "Black Thursday" — nearly 600 crew members and 60 Flying Fortresses were lost in a single raid against a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany.]

To photograph Bomber Command, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate…. Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the U.S. just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties.  Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600-lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on. Another time a Fortress came back to England with one motor shot away, one disabled, a third missing badly, and with 12 cannon holes and 2,000 machine-gun holes in the fuselage. Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70 percent hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. “Fantastic accuracy,” said the British.

Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until the skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.

ae702404db74e34e7802d146375025f7 Fasten your seatbelts! by Walter BaumhoferAlright, now for this morning’s links:

Celebrity fight between rapper DMX, George Zimmerman called off | Reuters

The celebrity boxing match between rapper DMX and acquitted Florida killer George Zimmerman has been called off, its promoter said on Saturday after threats were made against him.

I figured it was more along those lines, and not the crap about “money not being everything.”

Looks like the US is not the only country getting hit by major snow storms: At least seven dead, 1,000 injured as heavy snow hits Japan

The heaviest snow in two decades has struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 1,000 injured.

Up to 27 centimetres of snow was recorded in Tokyo by late Saturday, the heaviest fall in the capital for 45 years, according to meteorologists.

The storm hit Tokyo on the eve of its gubernatorial election. Observers say the heavy snowfall may affect voter turnout in the city of 13 million people.

tumblr_mjv6a44M6k1s4c1kfo2_r1_500On the new-earth front…check it out…Scientists find 800,000-year-old footprints in UK

They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe.

[...]

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was “a tangible link to our earliest human relatives.”

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors. They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male. They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

Lots more at the link. Pictures here: 800,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Found In England, Extinct Hominid Species Was ‘Fully Bipedal’ [PHOTO]

prints

tumblr_mntl580kDP1s4c1kfo2_r1_500In Tampa Florida, specifically West Tampa, a little scheme is being put together. The mayor is working to rid the area of the “projects” and “relocate” the residents….I don’t know, when I saw this in the news it made me laugh in a sarcastic way. Tampa officials unveil draft plan to redevelop area west of Hillsborough River | Tampa Bay Times

“This is big,” Buckhorn said of the transformation envisioned for 120 acres west of the river and north of Interstate 275. “This is bodacious. This is exciting. This will be a game-changer.”

The proposed “West River” plan would start with demolishing the World War II-era public housing at North Boulevard Homes. The imposing concrete-block apartments would be replaced by a more traditional neighborhood with walkable streets.

A total of 820 apartments would be bulldozed, making way for more than 1,600 new townhomes and apartments. The new housing would include both subsidized housing and units that sell or rent for market rates. With more working- and middle-class residents, businesses on Main Street should see more customers, officials say.

e32714ccc0cf5dbc79bfd7d3b7c66e23“Market rates?”  The thing that gets me is that there is very little outrage over this proposed “bodacious” project.  Not that new homes is something way overdue, but the idea that the people living there are going to be kicked out…with no real guarantee of a place to live, that is worrisome.

But all this is too premature. There is no “funding” yet, so no big deal right now…

The rest of the links in quick fashion:

Charlie Chaplin’s only novel to be released

A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin — the only book the silent film comic ever wrote — is being made public for the first time.

“Footlights”, which will be unveiled in London later Tuesday, was written by Chaplin in 1948 and later transformed into his film “Limelight”, in which a washed-out clown saves a dancer from suicide.

The book is being published in English by the Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film restoration institute which has been working with Chaplin biographer David Robinson on reconstructing drafts found in the Chaplin archives.

[...]

a79a5ec49845f4080726eee2d6391aedAccording to Robinson, the relationship between drunken clown and desperate ballerina in the much later “Footlights” was likely inspired by his meeting with legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916.

The Cinetaca describes Chaplin’s “vivid, idiosyncratic” writing style which, “unadulterated by editors, moves freely from the baldly colloquial to moments of rich imagery and Dickensian description.

“For a setting, he looked back to London and the music halls of his first professional years, an enchanted period in which he had broken out of the deprivations of his childhood to discover, progressively, his unique gifts as entertainer and communicator,” the institute said in a statement.

“But this retrospect also recalled the painful insecurity of an uneducated, uncultured boy launched into the world of success”, and the clown’s expressions of despair at losing the world’s respect and admiration likely reflected Chaplin’s own feelings as his popularity dwindled.

283384f73086b642a1b508ccaef39ed5The book can be found here: Libri, DVD & Gadgets – Cinestore

The New York Times says the book will also be available at amazon.com.

Did y’all see the Pussy Riot interview with Colbert? Pussy Riot Gives the Funniest, Best Colbert Report Interview Ever | Mediaite

It really was a great interview, and funny that after it got so much press this happened:  Pussy Riot members announce split with freed duo

Members of Pussy Riot’s collective published a letter Wednesday in which they distanced themselves from Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alekhina and said “they are no longer Pussy Riot.”

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group,” six anonymous members of the group wrote on their blog, “and they will no longer take part in radical actionism.”

They said they said they were “very pleased” with Tolokonnikova’s and Alekhina’s release from prison, and proud of their resistance against the ordeals they suffered, but said the collective could not support the inclusion of “institutionalized defenders of prisoners’ rights.”

7f9fe9822578e05057b7f2b73b58bf22Yup, the two women who were imprisoned for the band, got kicked out of the band.

“Yes, we have lost two friends, two ideological teammates, but the world has acquired two brave human rights defenders — fighters for the rights of Russian prisoners.”

Wow. That was a shitty way to tell the two to go chase themselves…personally I think Masha and Nadia should have told the group “Let’s blouse!” a lot earlier. 59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again | Thought Catalog

“Go chase yourself!”: “Get out of here!”

“Let’s blouse!”: “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

And now a few geeky links:

Scientists create bone-like material that is lighter than water but as strong as steel

Here’s How Many LEGO Bricks It Would Take to Build 17 Famous Movie Houses

4e25d0e368cd0247624b2d93f4685864Norse Rune code cracked

A scholar of the University of Oslo has cracked one of the rune codes used by the Vikings, revealing they were sending each other messages such as ‘Kiss me’.

For those of you who liked Breaking Bad: Starz Green-Lights Gritty Ballet Drama — Vulture

Starz has officially green-lighted its gritty ballet drama Flesh and Bone, the network announced today. The show, created by Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett, follows Claire, a gifted young ballet dancer with a dark, self-destructive past who is a new member of a rigorous New York ballet company.

This caught my eye, you should get a kick out of it: 12 Ridiculous Anti-Woman Myths From The Dark Ages That Conservatives STILL Believe

Have you ever been reading or watching a report about a conservative man who said something so incredibly backwards  that you swore he was living in the Dark Ages? Well, you’re not so very far from wrong. 5f7c886b5e09136b8546194c0a9e74deThe Dark Ages were dark partly because education was discouraged and science was suspect, leading to some astoundingly silly things being taken for fact. Like, for example, that the heart was the seat of intelligence. Or that frogs spontaneously generated from mud. As fun as those sort of ideas are to explore, this article will be dealing with beliefs about that strange and inscrutable being: Woman.

Finally, if you are into the Schadenfreude, you can get a few thrills tonight during the figure skating events on the Olympics.  Or…you can just take a look here a few falls…watch them go sailing right out there: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever

Y’all have a good day, and share what you are reading about today.


Saturday Morning Open Thread

winterevolving

It was one degree here when I woke up and it’s gone all the way up to seven degrees now. For most of the 46 winters I’ve lived here in the Boston area, the temperatures have rarely gotten into the teens, let alone single numbers or below zero. It looks like it’s going to be a looooooong winter. What’s it doing where you are?

Anyway, I’m getting a slow start today. I will have a longer post up a little later on. Use the comment thread to discuss weather, politics, or anything else that’s on your mind, and please check back later for a longer post. Here are a few links to get you started:

WaPo: Al-Qaeda-linked force captures Fallujah amid rise in violence in Iraq

Aljazeera: Iraq government loses control of Fallujah

NYRB: How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined (and not just by NSA)

ABC online: Vladimir Putin lifts blanket ban on political protests at Sochi Winter Olympics

LA Times: Dogs align with magnetic fields while pooping, study says

Live Science: The 10 Best Science Stories of 2013

NOLA.com: Louisiana’s young people are asking, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’: Robert Mann

LA Times: Phil Everly dies at 74; half of vocal duo the Everly Brothers

 


Tuesday Reads: Larry Klayman v. NSA; CBS’ 60 Minutes v. Truth; and Police v. Foreign Diplomats

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Good Morning!!

Our weird winter weather is continuing. This morning’s temperature outside my house is zero degrees! And we’re expecting five more inches of snow this afternoon, most of it during the afternoon rush hour. I guess all I can do is grin and bear it.

Now let’s see what’s happening in the news today.

Lots of people are excited about the ruling yesterday by US District Court Judge Richard Leon that NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is “likely unconstitutional,” but the decision is on hold pending appeal by the Feds and as Reuters notes this morning, SCOTUS is probably going to have the final say on what happens to NSA surveillance programs following revelations from the massive trove of data stolen by Edward Snowden and passed to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

“This is the opening salvo in a very long story, but it’s important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata program,” said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert at the American University law school.

Vladeck said 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have examined Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision of law under which the data collection takes place, without finding constitutional problems. “There’s a disconnect between the 15 judges on the FISA court who seem to think it’s a no-brainer that Section 215 is constitutional, and Judge Leon, who seems to think otherwise.”

Vladeck said there is a long road of court tests ahead for both sides in this dispute and said a higher court ultimately could avoid ruling on the big constitutional issue identified by Leon. “There are five or six different issues in these cases,” Vladeck said.

Robert F. Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, predicted Leon’s decision was highly likely to be reversed on appeal. He said the collection of telephone metadata — the issue in Monday’s ruling — already has been addressed and resolved by the Supreme Court.

Maybe the solution would be to repeal the Patriot Act? Anyway, I think it’s important to note that this lawsuit was brought by Larry Klayman, a certified right wing nut who used to head Judicial Watch and now runs something called Freedom Watch.

larry Klayman

Here’s a little background on Klayman from The New York Times:

In the 1990s, he filed numerous lawsuits against President Bill Clinton and his administration, alleging a litany of personal and professional transgressions. Mr. Klayman later nettled Vice President Dick Cheney over his secret energy policy meetings and claimed that members of George W. Bush’s administration might have known in advance of the 2001 anthrax attacks in Washington.

More recently, Mr. Klayman, who has been called “Litigious Larry,” sued OPEC, accusing oil-rich nations of price fixing and of trying to “bring Western economies to their knees.” And he sued Facebook and its founder for $1 billion when, he said, it was too slow to take down a web page that threatened Jews with death.

The guy is a weirdo, so I have to wonder what it was that convinced a conservative Bush-appointed judge like Leon. And will ne be able to convince our right wing Supreme Court? I’d love to see NSA reined in, but I have serious doubts as to whether it will happen.

More on Klayman:

Mr. Klayman is a fixture of sorts in Washington. He founded, and then parted ways, with the conservative interest group Judicial Watch, which continues litigating grievances despite Mr. Klayman’s bitter departure. (He sued Judicial Watch, too, accusing it of breach of contract and other offenses.) His 2009 book is titled “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.”

Mr. Klayman has not spared the current Democratic administration. At a Tea Party rally in October, he urged conservatives “to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Last year, Mr. Klayman filed a lawsuit in Florida arguing that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president because “neither Mr. Obama, nor the Democratic Party of Florida, nor any other group has confirmed that Mr. Obama is a ‘natural born citizen’ since his father was a British subject born in Kenya and not a citizen of the United States.”

 A little more on the case from Politico:

On June 6, just a day after the Guardian report [on Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA phone data collection], Klayman filed suit in Washington on his own behalf and on behalf of two clients — Charles and Mary Ann Strange, parents of a Navy SEAL killed in a disastrous helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011….

Klayman said he and Charles Strange were being targeted by the government because of their claims relating to Strange’s son’s death, which include a complaint that a Muslim imam cursed the dead SEAL team members during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base.

“My colleagues have received text messages I never sent,” Klayman told the judge. “I think they’re messing with me,” he said, referring to the government.

Klayman implored the judge to rule against the NSA program not only on legal grounds but in order to avert what the conservative gadfly said was a violent revolution on the verge of breaking out due to the federal governments [sic] unbridled use of power.

“We live in an Orwellian state,” Klayman said, warning that citizens angry about surveillance were about to “rise up.”

If litigation fails, “the only alternative is for people to take matters into their own hands,” he told Leon.

I wonder what parts of these arguments convinced Judge Leon?

Despite the weirdness, Charles Pierce is cheering Leon’s decision:

No matter what you think of Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald, and no matter what you think of what they did, this ruling does not happen if the NSA doesn’t let a contractor walk out of the joint with the family jewels on a flash drive. This ruling does not happen if we do not know what we now know, and we don’t know any of that unless Snowden gathers the data and leaks it to the Guardian. This entire country was founded after a revolution that was touched off to a great extent by the concept of individual privacy.

Read all about it at the Esquire link.

I know it’s difficult for some males to understand this, but if Americans do have a right to privacy, then American women should also have that right in making decisions about what happens to their bodies–they should be able to choose whether or not and/or when to have a child. Therefore, they should have access to birth control and abortion without the interference of the state. If women–who represent more than 1/2 of the U.S. population–can’t have privacy; then there is a very big disconnect in the law that needs to be clarified. Are women people? Are they citizens? Griswald and Roe were also decided on the basis of privacy.

Lara_Logan_crop

After their fluff piece on NSA on Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes announced yesterday that Lara Logan, who was “suspended” after she hosted an utterly false report on the Benghazi attacks, will be returning to the program next year. Politico’s Dylan Byers:

Logan and McClellan took leave following public pressure over an Oct. 27 report in which security contractor Dylan Davies claimed to have been present and active at the Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Reports later indicated that Davies had told both his contractor and the FBI that he was not present at the compound on the night of the attack. Logan later apologized and “60 Minutes” retracted the story.

Despite public criticism and internal frustrations among some members of the “60 Minutes” team, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager decided to stand by Logan. Earlier this month, he held a meeting with CBS News staff in which he defended the 42-year-old journalist, saying that as EP he was ultimately responsible for failing to catch the mistake.

As an antidote, I recommend reading TBogg’s take on this decision at Raw Story: Lara Logan is tan, rested and ready to come back and be kind of bad at her job again.

Last week, it was revealed that LA Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been indicted by a Grand Jury had illegally arrested and “roughed up” two foreign diplomats in 2011. From the LA Times:

An Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at the Men’s Central Jail, according to four indictments filed against 18 department officials.

The incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national….

The Austrian consul’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to one of the indictments unsealed Monday.

When the consul requested to speak to a supervisor about her husband’s arrest, she too was placed in handcuffs and arrested, even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

The couple were taken to a deputy break room and searched, the indictment said.

Read more details at the link. And from Firedoglake, Peter Van Buren explains why this is so outrageous:

One of the primary jobs for any embassy or consulate abroad is the welfare of its citizens. Indeed, many of the first diplomatic outposts abroad were set up to protect sailors and merchants. This work typically includes visiting one’s citizens in foreign jails, a task young diplomats around the world conduct. As a State Department foreign service officer myself for 24 years, I must have done this hundreds of times. But no matter how many times I did it, it was always an unsettling feeling to walk into a jail, go through security into a cell or holding room, and then walk back out.

Getting out, and being treated properly inside, was however more than an act of faith on my part. Diplomats abroad are protected people; under both formal treaties and long-established traditions (“diplomatic immunity”), a country should not mess around with another’s diplomats. Take a look at Iran– over thirty years since the kidnapping of American diplomats in Tehran, our two countries still are a long, long way from reestablishing relations.

I once safely visited in an underground facility of an Asian country’s secret police an American Citizen who likely had been tortured. The system generally works everywhere, from first world countries to crappy police states in the developing world. However, one rough area where it does not work is in Los Angeles.

Please read the rest if you can.

Devyani Khobragade

Today we learn that the NYPD also abused a foreign diplomat. The woman, a deputy consul general at the Indian embassy in NYC was arrested and handcuffed on the street and then subjected to a strip search at police headquarters. From The Guardian:

Bulldozers have removed security barriers outside the US embassy in Delhi as a diplomatic row prompted by the arrest of an Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges in New York intensified.

Devyani Khobragade, India‘s deputy consul general in New York, was charged last week with making false statements on an application for her housekeeper to live and work in the United States.

India’s national security adviser on Tuesday called the treatment of Khobragade “despicable and barbaric” and the country’s foreign secretary summoned the US ambassador. Politicians – including Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and vice chairman of the ruling Congress party, and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist opposition BJP – refused to meet a visiting US congressional delegation.

The removal of the barriers was one of a slew of retaliatory actions taken by the Indian government as outrage at the arrest grew, including the withdrawal of import clearances and special airport passes. The incident has become a major story in India, dominating TV bulletins.

The false statements were that Khobragade had agreed to pay the housekeeper the New York minimum wage ($9.25), but had agreed privately with the woman that her actual salary would be only 1/3 that amount.

From NDTV All India:

Furious with the US for the arrest and alleged strip search of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India today retaliated with a slew of measures to pare down the privileges of American diplomats. (10 latest developments)

US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.

The Delhi police removed barricades outside the sprawling US embassy in the capital.

Ms Khobragade was subjected to a humiliating strip search and was kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week. (Read) Noel Clay, a spokesperson for the US State Department, told NDTV that standard procedures had been followed during Ms Khobragade’s arrest.

The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.

As part of its reciprocal measures, India is asking for details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials.

It seems that, between the NSA revelations and the increasing use of police state tactics by law enforcement, the US is managing to alienate much of the rest of  all the world.

I’m out of space, so I’ll wrap this up. Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day!


Cold Cold Evening: Open Thread

Good Evening

It has been snowing all day here in Banjoville, no accumulation though. Funny, the way how winter was late this year…only to hang on into spring.

I know Boston Boomer, and the rest of the sky dancers in the Northeast have been getting lots of snow lately. Worcester is nation’s snowiest city – Political Cartoon by Don Landgren Jr., TelegramTowns – 03/25/2013

Cartoon by Don Landgren Jr. - Worcester is nation's snowiest city

How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

This is an open thread.