Lazy Saturday Reads: Leonard Nimoy, Son of Boston’s Old West End

Leonard Nimoy receives honorary degree from Boston University, May, 2012.

Leonard Nimoy receives honorary degree from Boston University, May, 2012.

Good Afternoon!!

JJ posted some wonderful cartoon tributes to Leonard Nimoy last night. I decided to follow her lead by posting some articles and clips I enjoyed reading and watching. Naturally, I was interested in learning more about Nimoy’s early years in Boston; so that’s what I’m going to focus on today.

I really liked the obituary in The Boston Globe (originally published in the NYT): ‘Star Trek’ icon Leonard Nimoy dies at 83. It’s a very nice piece, and it includes Nimoy’s Boston history.

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died Friday at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83….

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing, “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Nimoy's high school yearbook photo

Nimoy’s high school yearbook photo

On Nimoy’s Boston background:

Martin Walsh, the mayor of Nimoy’s native Boston, called him “a proud product of Boston’s neighborhoods and English High School.”

“Mr. Nimoy never forgot his Boston roots and the spirit of his work lives on in the future generations of children who continue to be inspired by his iconic portrayal of Mr. Spock,” Walsh said.

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.”

English High School

English High School

On his connection to his Jewish ancestry:

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Nimoy published “Shekhina,” a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teaching of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered.

“Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”

I just loved that quote at the end. There’s much more info at the link if you’re interested.

Nimoy grew up in the old West End of Boston, a multi-ethnic neighborhood filled with tenement houses that are gone now. However, there is a West End museum that preserves the neighborhood’s history.  Nimoy is listed among the important products of the neighborhood along with Charles Bullfinch, media mogul Sumner Redstone, movie producer Joseph E. Levine, and others. Here’s a photo of “Lenny” with some schoolmates. You can see the West End tenements in the background.

leonard_nimoy with schoolmates

 

At NECN, you can watch a video with interviews from West Enders.

Boston Remembers Native Leonard Nimoy, Old West End

Boston’s West End looks nothing like it did when Leonard Nimoy was born there in 1931. Then, there were half a dozen schools, 32 ethnic groups and hundreds of tenement houses.

But that is where the actor’s legacy remains.

“I think he’s just a neighborhood guy made good,” said Duane Lucia, curator of The West End Museum….

“When he came home from Hollywood, from the West Coast, he actually had to sleep in the same bed as his brother,” said Lucia. “They lived in a very crowded tenement house, like everybody else, where you might have three generations in a two-bedroom apartment.” ….

He returned to the West End to shoot a documentary, meeting with Lucia and others in the neighborhood.

“The West End is gone. He was part of the West End, now he’s gone. It’s too bad,” said Steve Zaidman, who grew up in the West End.

More at the link.

Salem St. (a Jewish area) in the Old West End

Salem St. (a Jewish area) in the Old West End

 

I found this amazing trove of photos of “Medieval Boston” before Urban Renewal at Cyburbia.org. The photo below came from that link.

Bowdoin Square, 1929, gateway to the doomed West End beyond.

Bowdoin Square, 1929, gateway to the doomed West End beyond.

Here’s some background on the documentary Nimoy shot with his son and video of the first 10 minutes.

Remembering Leonard Nimoy: A Look Back at His Time in Boston’s West End.

Nimoy visited the museum earlier this year with his son, who shot a short film for WGBH titled Leonard Nimoy’s Boston. The program brought Nimoy around to different locations in Boston, from the corner of Washington Street and Boylston Street where he sold vacuum cleaners, to the old West End, which barely resembled anything close to the neighborhood that once existed.

Nimoy was born to Max Nimoy, a barber who also worked making leather patterns for luggage. By the age of 10, young Leonard was hustling newspapers on the Boston Common. His parents would have liked him to go into a profession that would allow Nimoy to live a comfortable life, but his experiences in the West End pushed him towards theatre.

In Percy Shain’s 1963 Globe article, Nimoy talks about the time he spent at the Peabody Playhouse, where children took acting classes and put on productions for the West End community.

“I went into acting at the Playhouse more because I was an active kid and wanted something to do, than because I was stage struck.”

He told Boston University’s Class of 2012 during a commencement speech that “It was a community settlement house which was created to help immigrants find their way into the culture. They offered classes in language, cooking, shopping, kitchen sanitation, dental care and how to apply for a job. There was a gym and a sports program, and there was a small gem of a theater.” Today, the Elizabeth Peabody House is located in Somerville and continues to encourage children to let their creativity drive them.

According to BDC Wire, in 2012, Nimoy told Boston Phoenix writer S.I. Rosenbaum

how his passion for photography started after a friend gave him instructions on developing film. “There were six of us living in the apartment with one bathroom, and that was my darkroom,” he told her.

His interest in photography never waned, and in 2014 he appeared via Skype (see photo below) at a showing of his work at Boston University’s Sherman Gallery, “Leonard Nimoy: Secret Selves.”

Nimoy BU 2014

He previously had had a showing of his work in 2010 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Here’s a brief article about that show published at The Daily Beast yesterday.

Leonard Nimoy’s ‘Secret’ Talent: A Look Back at His Intimate Photography Exhibition.

Nimoy also had a hidden talent: photography. Back in 2010, he unveiled an exhibition of photo portraits, Secret Selves, at Mass MoCA in his native Massachusetts.

When asked if he’d be appearing in other Star Trek films after 2009’s Star Trek, he laughed.

“You’re talking to a photographer! That’s all over for me,” he told our reporter at the time.

Nimoy described the photo show as a “social experiment,” urging people to pose as their “secret selves”—or alter-egos—yielding fascinating results, with several subjects going so far as posing in the nude.

“To tell you the truth, I feel like I’ve acted out every possible secret self for the last 60 years,” he said. “I’ve done vicious people, honest people, porks—I’ve done all kinds of self.”

See a gallery of Nimoy’s Selves at another Daily Beast link.

More about Nimoy’s art at Art.net News: Leonard Nimoy, Photographer, Art Collector, and Beloved Star Trek Actor, Dead at 83.

Nimoy was a photographer, poet, art collector, and musician, as well as an actor. He became fascinated with photography when he was 13 and went on to study with the photographer Robert Heinecken at UCLA (Heinecken was the subject of a solo show last year at New York’s Museum of Modern Art). His work is represented in various collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Bakersfield Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and New York’s Jewish Museum. He also published several books of photography, including The Full Body Project (2007) and Shekhina (2005).

He was also a beloved patron of the arts, having donated to Asia Society Museum and the Hammer Museum, as well as other museums on the east and west coasts.

“Leonard Nimoy was everything you would imagine him to be—kind, moral, wise, loyal, and profoundly generous of spirit,” Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum, told artnet News in an email. “He truly loved the arts—all of them—but he followed theater and the visual arts with a particular passion and knowledge. He and [his wife] Susan have been great philanthropists for many causes but we were truly lucky at the Hammer to have their friendship and support over the years. We will all miss him terribly.”

Richard Michelson, his Northampton, Massachusetts, dealer pointed out that he supported exhibitions of young and challenging photographers at various museums with funding from his eponymous foundation….

Associated so closely with Mister Spock, Nimoy was intrigued with the notion of alternate identities, and invited volunteers from nearby Northampton to “reveal their secret selves” on film. The concept was fueled by Plato’s “Symposium,” which imagined the original humans were dual creatures then split into two by the gods. In another series, the “Full Body Project,” Nimoy photographed full-bodied women in the nude.

full body project

 

He was clearly a brilliant, sensitive, talented, and creative person.

Nimoy also had a wonderful speaking voice. From the Globe: Nimoy’s voice will live on at Boston’s Museum of Science.

Nimoy, who died Friday morning at age 83, has been opening each movie at the theater since 1988, theater manager Robin Doty said. The Boston-born actor is best known for his role as the pointy-eared Vulcan Mr. Spock on th “Star Trek” TV series.

Nimoy grew up in the city’s West End, the area where the museum is located.

Before the IMAX movies play on the giant screen, during the sound-check, Nimoy’s familiar voice comes on, and he recites some lines from the song, “Who Put the Bomp?” by Barry Mann.

“I think his voice helps acclimate guests to sound systems,” Doty said. “It’s always kind of fun and out of character for him.”

Doty said audiences enjoy Nimoy’s cameo appearance and that it is all part of the experience at the museum.

“He was very open and kind. He had a warm spot in his heart” for the museum, he said. “It’s hard to believe. … He’s such a timeless person.”

 

West End Museum curator Duane Lucia with Leonard and Adam Nimoy at the museum in 2013.

West End Museum curator Duane Lucia with Leonard and Adam Nimoy at the museum in 2013.

 

One final Boston-related story that Leonard Nimoy told during his speech at BU’s Commencement in 2012, from Business Insider.

Leonard Nimoy said a chance meeting with a young JFK changed his life.

In 2012, he reflected on his life in a commencement speech to Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. He told the story of how a chance meeting with future president John F. Kennedy inspired him when he was at a low point in his career.

In the 1950s, Nimoy was struggling in Los Angeles with a wife and two kids, he said in his speech. He spent his days in auditions and his nights driving a taxi for steady income. One night he picked up Kennedy, who was a Massachusetts senator at the time, at the Bel Air Hotel. He said:

We chatted about careers … politics and show business, and we agreed that both had a lot in common. Maybe too much in common. He said, “Lots of competition in your business, just like in mine.” And then he gave me this: “Just remember there’s always room for one more good one.”

Words to live by, and I did.

So you can see that Boston had a huge impact on Leonard Nimoy’s life, and in return he has had a powerful impact on the city of his birth and its people.

 

You can treat this as an open thread. What’s happening in the news today?


Friday Nite Lite: RIP Leonard Nimoy

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So sad to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, he was 83. It is unfortunate that most of the cartoon tributes are at Cagle so you will need to click each link to see the image.

Leonard Nimoy dies by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

Obama salutes Spock by Political Cartoonist Taylor Jones

LEONARD NIMOY by Political Cartoonist Randy Bish

Leonard Nimoy by Political Cartoonist Bob Englehart

Leonard Nimoy Mr Spock RIP by Political Cartoonist Rob Tornoe

Mr Spock by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

Other Cagle cartoons:

GOP Threatens Dept of Homeland Security by Political Cartoonist Daryl Cagle

Old Man Winter by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

Veto Ink by Political Cartoonist Adam Zyglis

Tennessee Rep Sheila Butt by Political Cartoonist Daryl Cagle

Net Neutrality by Political Cartoonist John Darkow

Cold Blooded by Political Cartoonist Mark Streeter

Alright, enough of that.

AAEC – Political Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton Times/Tribune – 02/27/2015

Cartoon by John Cole -

Nick Anderson: Netanyahu’s Speech – Nick Anderson – Truthdig

 

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer – 02/27/2015

Cartoon by Kevin Siers -

 

Jeb 2016 – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 02/27/2015

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Jeb 2016

Bill O’Reilly – Political Cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News – 02/27/2015

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Bill O'Reilly

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 02/27/2015

Cartoon by David Horsey -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 02/26/2015

Cartoon by David Horsey -

Mike Luckovich: Lucky GOP – Mike Luckovich – Truthdig

 

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

Cold Crime – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 02/23/2015

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Cold Crime

America’s Mayor – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 02/24/2015

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - America's Mayor

 

I love this last one…

 

Mad Whitey and Evolution – Political Cartoon by Eric Semelroth, Free Lance/Self Syndicated – 02/23/2015

Cartoon by Eric Semelroth - Mad Whitey and Evolution

 

This is an open thread.


Friday Reads: The Medium isn’t the Message

martha-gellhornGood Morning!

I’ve been looking at media stories this week.  That includes both traditional and nontraditional forms.  The internet continues to influence the release of news and how news is made and reported. Several topics really caught my eye.  The first is the ease with which we’re seeing documentation of Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations on places he’s been and news stories he covered.  It seems like one exaggeration/lie after another is popping up from all kinds of places since David Corn of Mother Jones found out that O’Reilly was never near a battlefield during the Falklands War despite the stories O’Reilly tells.  Here’s some of the latest on the life and times of the blustery, on line person who really is a serial liar.

Former colleagues of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host whose tales of past reporting exploits are facing renewed scrutiny, have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

Six people who covered the riots with O’Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O’Reilly has claimed, “concrete was raining down on us” and “we were attacked by protesters”.

Several members of the team suggested that O’Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble.

Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O’Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O’Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: “Don’t you know who I am?”

O’Reilly, 65, is one of the most influential figures in American broadcasting and publishing. He is paid a reported $20m a year to host his show, the O’Reilly Factor, which consistently ranks among the most-watched current affairs programs in US cable TV. He has also authored several bestselling books and memoirs.

He has for several days been defending himself against accusations that he inflated his recollections of reporting from Argentina at the end of the Falklands war as a young correspondent for CBS News. The Guardian found he had told differing versions of an apparent encounter at gunpoint with Argentinian forces.

He has also been accused of lying in one of his books about being present at the scene when a CIA source, who had allegedly been linked to the assassination of President John F Kennedy, killed himself in 1977.

imagesXS1GNOQHFox News and Holt–publisher of O’Reilly’s book on Kennedy–have stood firmly by their man. O’Reilly’s show has never much been about facts any way as delivering anger to a key republican base.  This would seem hard to ignore.  Additionally, O’Reilly has actually threatened reporters.  Every one expected the name calling but it’s gone way beyond that now. How can Fox stand behind an on air personality that lies and threatens journalists?

As the controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly and his war reporting experiences continues to heat up, with more allegations coming out each day, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow wonders how much longer Fox News can stand by the host.

On Wednesday evening, Maddow spoke with Mother Jones author David Corn, one of the journalists who wrote the original report revealing the inaccuracies in O’Reilly’s story. O’Reilly subsequently called Corn “a liar” and said that he deserves to be put in “the kill zone.” On Tuesday, the Fox News host threatened a New York Times reporter covering the scandal: “I am coming after you with everything I have,” O’Reilly said.

“Apparently, they [Fox News] think it’s proper for one journalist to call another one names,” Corn told Maddow. “Not that it scares me off the story, but I have family and I have friends who are concerned about me now.”

Corn called the threats “highly inappropriate” and noted that O’Reilly still has not disproven “a single fact” from his piece.

Maddow said that after his threats to Corn and the Times’ reporter, it is “untenable” for Fox News to stand by him.

“They employ a lot of journalists, including those who work in risky situations,” she said. “Fox is a good place to work for journalists.”

Maddow made a similar point on her show one night earlier, questioning what O’Reilly’s behavior will do to Fox News’ “work environment” and to the “real reporters” that work there

Why on earth do news personalities like O’Reilly and Brian Williams lie when their jobs should be all about integrity? photogsDo they all yearn to be seen as Walter Cronkite?  Do their memories and egos just run amok?

News in America has increasingly become infotainmenthalf factual information about the world’s events, half dazzling production and splashy narratives. Simultaneously, fewer and fewer Americans have ever seen battle; most of us only know war from what we see in film and television. So war itself becomes difficult to distinguish from entertainment. American Sniper, with its ambiguous moral commitments, is now the highest grossing American war film of all time, adjusted for inflation. Unlike popular war films about battles long past, American Sniper is set during the Iraq war, the effects of which are only beginning to ripple across our culture. Moreover, its story allegedly reflects the true-life story of its central character, sniper Chris Kyle. It’s somewhat true, like the news, but with a better script and pretty actors.

Which makes it hard for the news to keep up, even when you’re as handsome as Brian Williams. Unlike most cinematic retellings of wars, actual wars are multifaceted, complicated, anti-climactic, and grim. When war is already a successful subject in mainstream cinema, news purveyors whose professions have become increasingly akin to entertainment are shrewd to play up war stories in relaying the narrative of the day. The trouble is that shrewdness, for some news professionals, has morphed into a calculated consideration of the entertainment value of war stories, regardless of their factuality.

Maybe Williams and O’Reilly are merely victims of the fallible human brain. Or maybe that hunger to entertainand, perhaps, for a touch of gloryoverwhelmed their professional duty to the facts. What, after all, is more exciting than a war story in which you’re the star.

imagesH6SL6G62The other story I’ve followed has been yet another installment of “Is blogging dead?”  These are articles that I’ve seen a lot of since around three years ago. I guess the collapse of the Andrew Sullivan experiment has brought on another deluge.  The link explores the musings of bloggers from “The Golden Age” which seems an odd way to describe a period of maybe 5 years.  Any way, there are a few bloggers with opinions both ways.  I’ve followed a few of the links including this one from fellow economist/blogger Noah Smith.

In a nutshell, what is dying is the idea of the blog as a news source. In the old days, as a reader, you would have a favorite blogger, who would write many frequent posts throughout the day. That would be your main news source, your portal to current events. Often the post would have a slight bit of commentary or reaction. Basically, you got to hear the world narrated through the voice of someone you liked. For me, those narrators were University of California, Berkeley, economist Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, now at Vox. For many, it was Sullivan.

Twitter has basically killed that. With a Twitter feed you can integrate a bunch of different narrators into a single, flowing newsreel. It turns out that most of the micro-commentary that used to accompany a blog post can be squeezed into one or two tweets.

But the thing about micro-blogging is that, well, it’s micro. If you look at the blogs that Klein lists as the future (and there are many, many more), you will see that they all do posts that are about the length of a news article. That’s something Twitter complements, but can’t replicate.

However, that doesn’t mean that blog posts are now just news articles freed from the tyranny of professional editors. With blogs, you can do something that news can’t easily do — you can carry on a conversation.

imagesN5QQ6TZYI have to admit that I have mixed feelings about those declaring blogging to be the refuge of 40 year olds with kids or that nothing relevant happens on blogs these days. Maybe it’s because many of my friends are bloggers. But, I would like to point out that Lamar White–a blogging law student–broke two huge stories in the last year. The first was the shoddy situation with moonlight Congressman–now Senator–Double Bill Cassiday. The LSU med center just audited  whitewashed its findings and Lamar is still on top of it.  His second piece connecting Congressman Steve Scalise to the local white supremacists and David Duke nearly cost Scalise a leadership position.  Indeed, bloggers can frequently do good local investigations which is something local and national media rarely fund any more.

I would agree that blogging is changing but then so are all forms of written communication as well as broadcast media. Chris Cilliza has another notion.

The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It’s not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me  an ever-shrinking populace  a “blog” is simply a publishing medium. It’s a way to put content on the Internet  usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing  opinionated, snarky  that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake.

Well, we’re still standing–or sitting as the case may be–while sharing information with each other. We’ve all come a long way since we were booted from various communities for being loyal to Hillary back in 2008. I think there will always be a place for alternative voices. I say this as a former writer of an underground “newspaper”–The Aardvark–from way back in the day.  The medium evolves. The writer’s voice and need to write carries on.

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


Thursday Reads: Guerrilla Knitting, Scarf Bombing, and Other News

bull

Good Morning!!

There is quite a bit of interesting news today, so this will basically be a link dump; but first I want to share a feel-good story my mother tipped me off to. It’s about something called “yarn bombing” or more recently “scarf bombing.” I guess this has been going on for a few years, but I had never heard about it before. Here’s an article from last year

Yarn bombing is a form of urban graffiti or street art that uses colorful knitted or crocheted work instead of chalk or paint. To give you an idea of what this form of street art is all about, here’s a piece from a site called “Restore My Faith”: 32 Examples of Guerrilla Knitting. More recently charitable groups and individuals have modified this idea to help needy or homeless people deal with cold weather–by creating “scarf bombs” that they leave tied to trees and other public objects anonymously for anyone who needs them.

Yarn bomb INdy

My mom saw this story on the Indianapolis ABC News channel: Scarf Bomb: Anonymous group leaves warm gear with warm notes around the Circle in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – Dozens of knitted scarves were ready for the taking Monday on Monument Circle after an anonymous “scarf bombing.”

No one seems to know who left the roughly 40 scarves hanging on poles and parking meters, but there were notes that said they were free to anyone who needed to stay warm….

Knit bombing, or in this case, scarf bombing, has been going on for a couple years now in Indianapolis, and this is one of the first times we’re seeing it as a way to help the homeless and other people in need.

After RTV6 broke this story, a group from LifeJourney Church (located at 56th Street and Keystone Avenue) reached out and let us know earlier this month, it did the same thing.

The group hung scarves and hats it had collected all around Veterans Memorial Plaza. They had notes on them, reading: “These are not lost. If you are cold, and in need of some warmth, please take. God bless you!”

scarf bombs1

I found articles about scarf bombing–and sock and glove bombing all over the country and in Canada. I took it as proof that there really is hope for humanity, I hope it will make you feel good too. I’m going to illustrate this post with examples of knitting bombs.

More links about scarf/sock/glove bombing:

Ft. Wayne, IN: Food Not Bombs Organization Holds First “Scarf Bombing” Event.

Lancaster, PA: Wrap Up Lancaster spreads the warmth through scarf-bombing.

Jacksonville, FL: Local woman leaves free winter gear around Jacksonville.

Detroit: Detroit ‘yarn-bombed’ with knit hats and scarves.

Isn’t that a nice story?

Yarnbomb-OlekNYC-Union-Square-NYC-2

Now for some “real” news.

Net Neutrality Vote

Today is a big day for anyone who wants to keep the internet free instead of allowing cable companies to make maximum profits by letting giant corporations control it. From USA Today: At last, FCC to vote Thursday on net neutrality rules.

After nearly a year-long process, the Federal Communications Commission casts its all-important vote Thursday on the divisive issue of net neutrality.

The five-member board is expected to approve FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new rules that aim to preserve an open Internet and prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content makers. But regardless what happens Thursday, the agency’s action won’t be the last word.

“It is a defining moment, but it will be redefined by the courts, Congress and other entities including the marketplace going forward,” said Gary Arlen, a Bethesda, Md., research analyst. “But whatever they decide is going to be a benchmark.”

Net neutrality has become a politicized and polarizing issue in the roughly 10 months since the commission began crafting new rules. The agency’s previous regulations were tossed out by a federal court in January 2014.

yarn-bombed-vw-beetle1

Here’s a good background article from Fusion: The winners and losers of Washington’s vote on net neutrality.

Commissioner Tom Wheeler is proposing that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be regulated in the same way as other common carrier utility services, meaning they won’t be able to give the privilege of a faster Internet to customers and websites that can pay for it.

Earlier this month, Wheeler proposed the new regulations and wrote an op-ed for Wired that translated the bureaucrat-ese into human-speak. He wants to make a fundamental change to how ISPs and Internet traffic are regulated, governing them under Title II of The Communications Act of 1934, and not under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This change would give the government the ability to penalize ISPs for making “any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” The vote comes down to the decision of five people, two Republicans and three Democrats. If this vote passes (which it’s expected to), it would redefine and incorporate broadband service providers in the same grouping as the telecommunication giants. This would cause Internet providers, including wireless ones, to be regulated the same way cable companies are governed.

This digital tug-of-war on Capitol Hill over net neutrality has been going on for a decade. Whether or not consumers and companies should be charged for a “fast lane” (or condemned to a cost-free slow lane) has caused cable/internet providers and major tech companies to stand on opposite sides of the hill.

bike_14

Verizon and Comcast, two of the biggest spenders on lobbyists, both hate the idea of a common carrier utility Internet. Which makes perfect sense, given that these communication providers would be missing a golden opportunity to charge for premium Internet service.

On the other side are companies like Tumblr, which has an ongoing campaign to get people to share their stance on the matter at hand. There’s also Twitter, which released a statement Monday in support of free-flowing information without economic hierarchy.

The main proposals for FCC regulation of the internet:

–  No blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

–  No throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

–  No paid prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates under the “commercial reasonableness” part of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Magda_Sayeg_Yarn_Bombing_-Knitted_Grafitti_02

Read more at Fusion to get the details on “some big name tech companies, communication providers and politicians’ stances on the topic.”

A few more links:

WaPo, The Switchboard: With net neutrality, the FCC is about to make Internet history.

ProPublica, Net Neutrality May Face an Uphill Battle If History Tells Us Anything.

HuffPo, How We Won Net Neutrality.

Politicio, Keep the Internet Free (by David Karp, founder of Tumblr, “I couldn’t have created Tumblr without net neutrality.”

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In case you missed it, the Guardian broke a big story yesterday by Spencer Ackerman: The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’.

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

Scary stuff. That is a must-read.

telephone

Here’s today’s follow-up story from Spencer Ackerman, Zach Stafford, Mark Guarino, and Oliver Laughland:

‘Gestapo’ tactics at US police ‘black site’ ring alarm from Chicago to Washington.

The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week.

As a second person came forward to the Guardian detailing her own story of being “held hostage” inside Homan Square without access to an attorney or an official public record of her detention by Chicago police, officials and activists said the allegations merited further inquiry and risked aggravating wounds over community policing and race that have reached as high as the White House.

Caught in the swirl of questions around the complex – still active on Wednesday – was Emanuel, the former chief of staff to Barack Obama who is suddenly facing a mayoral runoff election after failing to win a majority in a contest that has seen debate over police tactics take a central role.

Emanuel’s office refused multiple requests for comment from the Guardian on Wednesday, referring a reporter to an unspecific denial from the Chicago police.

More on Emmanuel’s problems from John Nichols at The Nation: Rahm Emanuel Seemed Unstoppable—Until He Ticked Off Chicago’s Teachers.

Scarf bombing in Winnipeg

Scarf bombing in Winnipeg

In other news . . .

Foreign Policy

The man referred to as Jihadi John has been identified. Reuters UK repoerts, ‘Jihadi John’ from Islamic State beheading videos unmasked as Londoner.

USA Today, Islamic State fighters destroy Iraq antiquities.

Bloomberg Business on the Ukraine crisis, Ukraine Says Truce Takes Hold as Army Begins Weapons Pullback.

Republican Politics

Don’t miss this one from Tim Shorrock at The Nation, Giuliani’s Love for His Country Is Equal to the Money He Makes.

MSNBC.com, CPAC tests GOP 2016 field at a two-day conference in Maryland.

Have you noticed how well Scott Walker seems to be doing in the GOP race? Here’s a must read from John Cassidy at the New Yorker, The Dangerous Candidacy of Scott Walker.

The Daily Beast, Chris Christie Needs a Billion and a Half Bucks.

Gawker, Imagine Chris Christie Falling Out of a Chair, Forever.

Blue Nation Review, Barbara Boxer Hands the GOP Their Butts on A Platter.

BN_YarnBombing1.jpg

Scary stuff on the Supreme Court and the ACA: 

Politico, Supreme Court ruling could upturn Obamacare politics.

Bloomberg, Is Washington Ready for the Death of Obamacare?

Bloomberg View, How the Supreme Court Could Save Obamacare Again.

Odds and ends:

AP, New round of winter weather dumps more snow on the South.

NBC News, Atlanta, Georgia, Weather: City Tries Orderly Approach to Avoid Repeat of Snow Paralysis.

CNN, Groan with the wind: South gets hit with another winter storm

USA Today, I-95 in Maine partially reopened after 75-vehicle pileup.

Just for MA Sky Dancers, from CBS Boston: David Ortiz Says He And Tom Brady Age Like A Fine Wine.

What stories are you following today?

yarnbombing2


Wednesday Reads: Leftovers

10626215_914005625301082_5872656109029350996_oGood Morning

This is just going to be a link dump, I am not feeling quite up to the task of writing a post today, maybe it is the frustrating tiresome week…I don’t know. It gets exhausting spending so many hours snowbound with a man who is your total polar political opposite.

Anyway, for now I hope you find the following links interesting.

There has been quite a lot of “talk” about Patty Arquette’s backstage comments regarding various groups and their need to support Woman’s Rights.

See these two articles, or op/eds from Reality Check:

First: Patricia Arquette’s Spectacular Intersectionality Fail by Andrea Grimes

Intersectionality – Geek Feminism Wiki

(I had to look it up…good thing Grimes put up a link.)

And secondly: The Road to Structural Erasure Is Paved With Well-Intentioned White Ladies #ABLC by Imani Gandy

Then this later response by Gandy: The Funny Thing About Privilege #ABLC

il_fullxfull.711228862_qyjdGive all those a read and then take a look at this:

Patricia Arquette responds to Oscars feminism controversy, and Hillary Clinton supports her – People – News – The Independent

I am glad Hillary backed up Arquette…

Hillary Clinton: It’s Time For Wage Equality ‘Once And For All’

Hillary Clinton lamented the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at a Silicon Valley women’s conference on Tuesday, and called for more action to close the wage gap.

il_fullxfull.561770561_764v“Sixty percent of college graduates are now women, yet they earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. That’s actually less than half of what it was in the 1980s, when women earned 38 percent of those degrees. We’re going backwards in a field that’s supposed to be all about going forward,” Clinton said in a keynote address at Lead On Conference for Women in Santa Clara, California, for which she was reportedly paid a whopping $300,000.

The former secretary of state addressed an overwhelmingly friendly crowd made up of many employees from Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, including Intel, Oracle and Cisco. Introduced as a “modern day suffragette,” Clinton empathized with the audience by noting the difficulties women still face in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

“You bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry today,” she told the attendees.

Clinton framed the need to empower women as beneficial to America’s economy as a whole, and in so doing paid deference to one of Apple, Inc.’s biggest slogans.

il_fullxfull.686180167_1uhx“There are lasting consequences for them, their families, and our economy,” she said of women left out of the STEM fields. “We cannot afford to leave all that talent sitting on that sidelines. To borrow a familiar phrase, it’s time to think different.”

In advocating for closing the pay gap, Clinton also endorsed the impassioned plea for wage equality made by Patricia Arquette in her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.

This is what she said:

“Up and down the ladder many women are paid less for the same work, which is why we all cheered at Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars — because she’s right, it’s time to have wage equality once and for all,” Clinton said.

Damn right. I made some comments on the first post written by Imani Gandy, after that I just got tired of the whole thing. So tired of fighting for every little bit of something that is right and is deserved.  Fuck it.

The rest of the links, coming at ya:

il_fullxfull.709423135_2htbAnother look at Clinton’s speech: SANTA CLARA, Calif.: Clinton to women: It can still feel like 1955 out there | Elections | McClatchy DC

Which is the most sexist national anthem? | News | The Guardian

Italy and Turkey are the sexist…US is in the orange range…

Roman Polanski Appears in Court in Extradition Hearing – NYTimes.com

I wonder if he will ever face justice.

SHOCKING New Poll Shows Majority Of GOP Total Idiots | Wonkette

Brace yourselves for some stunning, shocking, jaw-dropping, too-amazing-to-believe-yet-totally-believable news! According to a new poll from PPP, the Republican Party is overflowing with morons. It’s true. In fact, it’s SCIENCE! Or MATH! Or some kind of liberal hoax thing!

Let’s nerdsplore how goddamned dumb Republicans are, shall we?

image: http://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/evolution.png

evolutionIf you think that’s depressing, well, OK, you’re right, it is depressing. But it gets worse:

image: http://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/global-warming.png

global warmingDidn’t Republicans used to more or less accept that basic science was real, scientifically speaking? Yes, but that’s before the entire party adopted the official “I’m not a scientist” platform, thanks to Fox News teaching the “controversy.”

il_fullxfull.376007480_9tx5Hey, but you know…they do love them some fetuses! At least until they are born: Republican lawmaker: It’s OK for children to die in the name of God – Salon.com

In a deeply religious section of Idaho, a Republican state representative says that the state has no right to protect children from their parents who refuse them needed medical treatment in favor of faith healing.

“Children do die,” says Rep. Christy Perry. And it’s fine with her if Idaho children die in the name of God. Perry’s district includes many followers of a religious cult, Followers of Christ, that eschews medicine. She says that the sect’s members are more comfortable confronting death when it happens to their children.

“I’m not trying to sound callous, but [people calling for reform] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not. It’s a way of life,” she says.

Oh boy…

1532077_714422388592741_973356611_oAgain, I am so sick of this shit. And I really don’t feel like arguing about it.

An Italian cemetery may provide clues on cholera’s evolution-Medievalist.net

The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the excavation team.

Archaeologists and their students have spent the past four summers painstakingly excavating remains in a special section of the cemetery used for cholera victims. About 20 to 30 skeletons have been excavated during each of the past four field seasons.

Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived – and died – in this region of Europe. “To our knowledge, these are the best preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found,” Larsen said. “We’re very excited about what we may be able to learn.”

il_fullxfull.726272341_bd6nOn the move: The impact of economic migration – Al Jazeera English

Urbanisation is rapidly picking up pace. We hit the tipping point in 2009, when there were more people living in urban areas than in rural ones.

The United Nations believes an additional 2.5bn people will live in urban areas by 2050, which is only 35 years away.

Many of the rural poor come to the cities and end up living in sub-standard housing. It is estimated that 863 million people now live in slums. And China alone, according to the UN, will need to spend $6.8tn over the next two decades just to integrate rural workers.

Counting the Cost examines the challenges of economic migration.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown reports from China; and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, joins us from New York to discuss migration and the issues behind it.

il_fullxfull.604026153_2e1b

Mysterious East Coast flooding caused by ‘unprecented’ surge in sea level – The Washington Post

Here’s a Satirical Take on the 40 Things the News Wants You to Be Afraid Of – Truthdig

5 Lessons Fat Albert Should Have Taught Bill Cosby | Cracked.com

Sicilian mafioso who lived incognito in Britain for 20 years to be extradited | World news | The Guardian

New Research Into Indo-European Languages – Archaeology Magazine

Brilliant Fireball Wows Skywatchers, Rattles Windows In Florida

and this last link:

Where Do Sesame Seeds Come From, Anyway?

Let’s treat this as an open thread…what are you reading about today?


Tuesday Reads: Drink More Coffee–It’s Good for You!* And Other News

winter coffee book

Good Morning!!

There’s a supposedly huge drama being carried on in Washington DC, but I just can’t get excited about it. Republicans are holding funding for the Department of Homeland Security hostage in an effort to block President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

I really haven’t been following this story, not only because I assumed it would end like all the other idiotic Republican efforts to shut down the government–a huge bluff that ends one side caving–but also because I don’t particularly care about the Department of Homeland Security.

I don’t want ordinary workers there to lose their jobs, but “homeland security” gives me the creeps. Isn’t it mostly about investigating Americans and harassing them in airports and other public places? I read the list of DHS activities at their website (see previous link) and I could find anything that I could get worked up about–maybe disaster preparedness.

Boston is going through a horrendous slow-moving disaster right now, and there’s been no help coming from DHS as far as I know. I’m sure elderly people must be going hungry because they can’t get out of their homes and poor people are probably freezing because they can’t afford to pay for heat. I don’t know for sure, because the media doesn’t seem to be asking questions about these marginalized people.

I do know that working people here are losing their jobs and may eventually lose their homes because they can’t get to work. In addition to the problem of getting out of your house and getting around with after more than 100 inches of snow have been dumped on us, Boston’s public transportation system is crippled. This morning when I woke up it was -11 degrees outside, and more snow is expected tonight.

winter-coffee

But getting back to the Homeland Security/Immigration fight, the truth is that it’s really a Republican thing. Semi-normal Republicans think DHS is really important and other, completely insane Republicans are more obsessed with keeping any more brown people from becoming U.S. citizens. At Forbes, Stan Collender writes:

Up to now I’ve been relatively convinced that House and Senate Republicans somehow would find a way to avoid shutting down the Department of Homeland Securitywhen its current appropriation expires in four days.

But it has become increasingly obvious over the past week that the reason for the stalemate between House and Senate Republicans over the DHS appropriation (as I said in this post, this is an almost purely GOP vs. GOP fight) has less to do with the publicly stated reason – stopping the president’s executive orders on immigration – and far more to do with the 2016 congressional election.

That makes coming up with a solution that will satisfy the House and Senate Republican majorities AND can pass each house of Congress far more difficult and makes a DHS shutdown more likely.

The militant wing of the House Republican caucus doesn’t fear a potentially negative impact on the coming election. To the contrary, it sees shutting down the Department of Homeland Security as a boon to their reelection chances. A shutdown will demonstrate a take-no-prisoners attitude to the militantly conservative, very anti-Democrat and overwhelmingly anti-Obama constituents who vote in the primary or whose support will make a primary unnecessary. To these GOP House members, a shutdown is not something to be avoided; it’s one of the first scheduled events in their 2016 reelection campaigns.

By contrast, the 24 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2016 not only have to pay attention to a larger and (relatively at least) more moderate base, they also have to consider the Democrats in their state who will be voting. And given that 10-12 of the 24 Republican senators who will be up for reelection next year are from blue states, they cannot afford to ignore or even give short shrift to the political impact of a shutdown on their Democratic voters.

Coffee books snow

Good. Let the Republican assholes fight it out. Mitch McConnell has a new plan to separate the immigration fight from the DHS funding, but it’s hard to see how that will work because it will take away the wingnuts’ leverage. USA Today reports:

McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he is essentially breaking off controversial immigration amendments from the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Those amendments have been at the center of the impasse over a $40 billion spending bill for the agency.

McConnell is offering a bill that would bar federal funds from being used to carry out President Obama’s executive actions to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA.

That move should allow a separate DHS funding bill to move forward without the immigration provisions that have caused a stalemate in Congress and led to the looming shutdown at the agency.

{{yawn…}} I doubt if this will work, but we’ll see . . . . What I don’t get is, since a judge has already stopped Obama’s immigration plan for the moment, what is the GOP fight really about? If anyone can explain it to me, please do.

coffee books snow2

Meanwhile, various Republican state legislators continue to demonstrate their ignorance about female bodies. The latest example comes from Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Idaho lawmaker asks if woman can swallow camera for gynecological exam before medical abortion.

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho lawmaker received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.

The question Monday from Republican state Rep. Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine….

Dr. Julie Madsen, a physician who said she has provided various telemedicine services in Idaho, was testifying in opposition to the bill. She said some colonoscopy patients may swallow a small device to give doctors a closer look at parts of their colon.

“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” Barbieri asked.

Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter.

Barbieri later claimed he was just “trying to make a point.” What that point was is unclear. Here’s what he told the press:

I was being rhetorical, because I was trying to make the point that equalizing a colonoscopy to this particular procedure was apples and oranges,” he said. “So I was asking a rhetorical question that was designed to make her say that they weren’t the same thing, and she did so. It was the response I wanted.”

BTW, doctors in Idaho do not prescribe morning after pills through telemedicine, so it’s also unclear why the bill is deemed necessary by Idaho wingnut Republicans.

winter_coffee__by_agnsun-d4o7h7e

Remember James O’Keefe? He’s baaaaaack. On Sunday, a right-wing website that I won’t link to (you can find the link at Memeorandum) reported that O’Keefe had tweeted that he has a new blockbuster video coming out and he “fears for [his] life” after it goes public. This morning, the big scoop was revealed in the New York Post. O’Keefe is targeting Al Sharpton with claims that he doesn’t really care about the families of victims like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

Erica Snipes tees off on the reverend as interested primarily in money during a conversation secretly recorded by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe’s group, Project Veritas.

One of O’Keefe’s investigators with a hidden camera posed as a Garner supporter during a protest last month at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.

“You think Al Sharpton is kind of like a crook in a sense?” the investigator is heard asking Garner’s oldest daughter.

“He’s about this,” Snipes replies, rubbing her fingers together.

“He’s about money with you?” the undercover asks.

“Yeah,” Snipes responds.

You can watch the video at the NY Post link.

Joseph Cannon is all over this story, and I hope he’ll write more about it. For now, he has a post up with plenty of background on James O’Keefe.

heart-healthy-coffee

O’Keefe’s story isn’t likely to get much mainstream attention, because the media is already wallowing a scandal in Obama’s cabinet. From Huffington Post yesterday: VA Secretary Robert McDonald Falsely Claimed He Served In Special Forces.

Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, wrongly claimed in a videotaped comment earlier this year that he served in special operations forces, the most elite units in the armed forces, when his military service of five years was spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s….

McDonald, a retired corporate executive who took over the VA last June as the agency was sinking in scandal, made the claim in late January as he was touring a rundown Los Angeles neighborhood during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. He was accompanied by a CBS-TV news crew, which recorded an exchange between McDonald and a homeless man who told McDonald he had served in special forces.

“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald told the homeless man. That exchange was broadcast in a Jan. 30 CBS News story about the VA’s efforts to find and house homeless veterans.

In fact, McDonald never served in special forces. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975, completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he retired from military service in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.

“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”

Today the story is at the top of Google News. There’s no way this guy is going to be able to continue in his job. Should we form a pool and guess how long it will take for him to “resign” in disgrace. Why do people do this? Spending five years in the 82 Airborne Division and graduating from Ranger School should have been enough. the Ranger training is what he must have been referring to in the video, but it doesn’t matter. He’s gone.

original

Here’s a fascinating piece about a fake story that went viral last week. I looked for local reports about this a couple of days ago and couldn’t find anything; so I figured the story couldn’t be true, since it was reported to have happened in Boston.

From Digg: Anatomy Of A Fake, Viral Story: The Priest Who Met A Female God In His Near-Death Experience.

On February 4 World News Daily Report published a story about a Massachusetts priest who made a miraculous medical recovery, and discovery:

A Catholic priest from Massachussetts [sic] was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart. During that time, Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.

The story reported that Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley explained away O’Neal’s revelation as nothing more than “hallucinations linked to a near-death experience,” and added that “God clearly isn’t a female.”

This remarkable report of a Catholic priest claiming that the Holy Father is in fact a mother went unnoticed by other media until a newspaper in Uganda, the Daily Monitor, picked it up word-for-word. That set off a cascade of articles on other websites around the world, which together have racked up tens of thousands of shares and social interactions, primarily on Facebook.

The Daily Monitor’s motto is “Truth Everyday,” but in this case its plagiarism helped propagate a hoax. World News Daily Report looks and reads like a real news website, but everything it publishes is completely fake. It’s one of several fake news websites that pump out hoax content with the goal of generating shares and links that they can monetize with ads.

Many of these sites have legitimate sounding names, such as The Daily Currant or National Report. They not only monetize peoples’ gullibility, but also their hopes and fears, their political and religious beliefs.

Read much more about these fake news sites and how their stories go viral at the link.

* Finally, here’s a story that sounds fake, but it actually isn’t.  And it’s way more interesting to me than the DHS funding fight.

Coffee_1_The-Good-News

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog: It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee.

When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.

Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.

The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”

health-benefits-of-coffee

And from Bloomberg Business: Coffee’s Great, U.S. Panel Says in Official Diet Recommendations.

“Coffee’s good stuff,” Tom Brenna, a member of the committee and a nutritionist at Cornell University, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want to get into implying coffee cures cancer — nobody thinks that,” he said. “But there is no evidence for increased risk, if anything, the other way around.”

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nonpartisan panel of academics and scientists, gives suggestions to U.S. agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. Subsequent government guidelines influence federal food programs and local issues such as school lunches. Previous guidelines have not addressed caffeine’s health effects….

Research since the advisory body last met in 2010 was critical to the decision on coffee, Brenna said. “There’s been a heck of a lot of work on coffee.”

coffee-health-body

 

So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!


Monday Reads: Tar Sands Inferno

Canada-Oil Train DerailmentGood Morning!

I’ve been reading a lot about the incredible number of fiery explosions of oil cars carrying tar sands oil.  Rachel Maddow covered the recent explosions in West Virginia last week which got me started on a series of articles leaving me highly concerned.  You see, I live within less than a block of freight trains that carry the stuff.  Why are these things blowing up like huge bombs?  The answer will both concern you and make you very mad.  Here’s the background of the North American “bomb trains”.

So, let me start with the Maddow show investigations and move on until we get to the movement of these tank cars on my street.  The latest explosion happened in Mount Carbon, West Virginia one week ago today. The explosion sent tankers filled with Bakken Tar Sands Oil into a nearby river.  The link above will show the report on that derailment and the horrifying images of the inferno that followed.

This links to the report that grabbed my attention last Tuesday.  It is 20 minutes long and explains why these derailments and explosions are occurring frequently and with such horrifying results.   I learned about conditioning of crude oil from this broadcast.

Transporting oil involves more than just safe train cars or even pipelines. The Bakken Tar Sands Oil is not being conditioned which is leaving extremely volatile and flammable components. These components create the mixture causing the bomb trains that transport right through towns, cities,  and neighborhoods like mine.  Texas law forces Texas oil to be fully conditioned prior to transportation.  North Dakota law does not and the Tar Sands Oil is particularly nasty stuff.  North Dakota has now initiated a cleansing process which is a weaker version of conditioning.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that Texas actually has tough regulations on this.  That says something to me.  North Dakota has some ‘splaining to do.

While the investigation continues into Monday’s massive explosion of Bakken crude oil tankers after a train derailment in West Virginia, a spokesperson for the Department of Mineral Resources says proper conditioning of the oil is just one of four pieces needed to ensure transport safety.

Alison Ritter said the State Industrial Commission’s oil conditioning order, effective April 1, sets a standard of certainty for the design of safe railcars.

“This is where we believe North Dakota fits into the solution of making oil as safe as possible for transport,” Ritter said.

However, she said the Federal Railroad Administration is responsible for unit train routing, speed limits, brakes and track maintenance, as well as notification of state emergency responders. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is responsible for overseeing how crude is labeled and tanker car design, and it and states are responsible for funding and training emergency responders, she said.

CSX Transport says the Bakken oil tankers that exploded this week were built to the higher safety standards.

The Dakota Resource Council continued its attack on state officials Wednesday, saying the new oil conditioning order for Bakken oil falls far short of what’s needed.

The order requires oil producers to reduce volatile gases in the oil to reach a maximum pressure of 13.7 pounds per square inch.

The DRC and others point out that the Bakken oil involved in a derailment explosion that killed 52 people in Quebec in 2013 was even lower, at 9.3 psi.

“We can and should do better,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday. The organization had pressed the Industrial Commission to require that the oil be stabilized to remove more of the gases.

Bakken crude has been involved in six train explosions since 2008, including one outside Casselton 14 months ago.

Again that latest explosion in West Virginia was a week ago today.  Just imagine massive fireballs, explosions, and evacuations in your town anywhere near a cross country railroad line.  There are some ongoing efforts to redesign old tankers in Canada.  It hasn’t gained a lot of traction here.6a00e5500ce6be883401127966322a28a4

Bakken crude is regarded as potentially more flammable than traditional crude, thus posing an increased hazard. And since the derailment of a train hauling Bakken crude killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013, the type of tankers involved in these accidents has become the subject of intense scrutiny. Both Canada and the United States have called for tougher safety standards, including upgrading the tankers. In mid-January, Canada announced it would take older tankers, known as the “DOT-111”, off the network years sooner than the United States will, putting the two countries at odds over increased safety measures on the deeply integrated system

The Mother Jones article cited above also links to an in-depth study about both the controversy and the problems with relying on making changes to the cars alone.  The problem, it seems, is more with the Bakken crude and nothing much is being done about that.  Well, it’s going to be “cleansed” starting in April.  However, that’s not the same as the conditioning process as mentioned in the link above.   Oil extractors are not happy with this at all and it’s not even the full out recommended conditioning.  (This link studies the impact from the Oil extractor viewpoint.)

The “commission order was written as a matter of safety,” the NDIC said in an executive summary of the regulation. “Rail accidents across the country have drawn attention for the need to better understand how Bakken oil is produced and processed at the well site.”

The regulation requires all crude produced in North Dakota to have a vapor pressure of no more than 13.7 pounds per square inch. “National standards recognize oil with a vapor pressure of 14.7 psi or less to be stable,” according to the summary, which said that winter blend gasoline has a vapor pressure of 13.5 psi. “Under the order, all Bakken crude oil produced in North Dakota will be conditioned with no exceptions,” the NDIC said in a statement.

The regulation will make waves from the wellhead to the rail terminal to the refinery, and possibly down the train tracks. It’s unknown how the conditioning of Bakken crude could affect the terms of forthcoming new tank-car safety standards, meant to protect against volatile crude shipments. But certainly, many industry participants will take on the daunting task of first conditioning the North Dakota crude and then moving out the associated NGLs into a market already flush with ethane, butane, and propane, sources said.

"Some Like It Hot"North Dakota is not making many friends with its neighboring states as witnessed in this NPR program quoting the Governor of Minnesota who worries about the impact of explosions in the much more populated state.

In neighboring Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton “is concerned primarily about the safety of people along oil train routes, and in particular about the fact that this is a very volatile oil,” says Dave Christianson, an official with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Dayton has joined activists in asking North Dakota to force oil companies to “stabilize” the oil — to make it less explosive by separating out the flammable liquids.

Last month, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple convened a public hearing on the idea. Keith Lilie, an operations and maintenance manager for Statoil, which has a big presence in the Bakken, testified in front of a room full of oilmen in suits and cowboy boots who came to the hearing from places like Oklahoma City and Houston.

Lilie said he opposes having to build expensive tanks to heat the oil and separate out flammable liquids, like butane.

“Statoil believes the current conditioning of crude oil is sufficient for safely transporting Bakken crude oil by truck, rail and pipeline,” he said.

Eric Bayes, general manager of Oasis Petroleum’s operations in the Bakken, also testified. He asked what companies are supposed to do with those explosive liquids once they’re separated from the oil.

The stabilization process, he says, would “create another product stream you have no infrastructure in place for.”

But energy economist Philip Verleger, says the resistance is about money. “The industry never wants to take steps which increase the cost of production, even if it’s in the best interests of everybody,” he says.

Verleger says the opposition to proposed safety rules is short-sighted, and that the industry could actually hurt itself if there’s another serious incident. “I think the movement of crude oil by rail is one accident away from being terminated,” Verleger says.

Activist Lynn Wolff supports new rules that would make the oil less explosive, and says such regulation would protect people beyond North Dakota. “These bomb trains have been in Virginia and Alabama and blown up there as well,” he says.

So, while reading about these “bomb trains” –which certainly sound to me like a huge disaster in the making–I stumbled into an article that shows the little darlings cross my street just 5 buildings down from my house.  Imagine the look of horror on my face.  Also, let me tell you, those trains actually derail quite a bit since the infrastructure here really really really sucks.  Officials are actually thinking about what would happen if the things derail in the French Quarter which is just one mile up the street from me.53daa8056dec627b149f9777_vintage-train-travel-8

City of New Orleans and state emergency officials said Friday (Feb. 20) they are prepared to implement an emergency evacuation of the French Quarter or other parts of the city in the event of a catastrophic crude oil derailment accident, such as the event that engulfed parts of Adena Village, W. Va., in pillars of flame on Monday.

But city officials said Friday those evacuation plans are not releasable under federal law, and declined to explain any details of how city, state and federal agencies would work together to respond to a catastrophic accident.

“The city’s evacuation plan is considered security sensitive as it lists critical routes, critical infrastructure and key resources,” said Bradley Howard, press secretary to Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

So, great they have a plan but they refuse to tell us about it. My plan is to suggest the girls take out life insurance on me and the pets.

The West Virginia accident involved a 109-tank car shipment of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota that was on its way to a shipping facility in Jamestown, Va. It was one of three such derailments within the past week, and involved new, supposedly safer tank cars that were supposed to have withstood the rupture and fire incident that occurred, said Fred Millar, an independent transportation safety expert based in Washington, D.C.

Millar called the older rail cars, many of which are used to ship oil through Louisiana, as “Pepsi cans on wheels” that should be expected to lose their contents whenever they derail.

Millar pointed to an accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, as an example of a worst-case incident that New Orleans should be prepared for. In that accident, poor maintenance, driver error, flawed operating procedures, and lack of safety redundancy resulted in a fiery derailment in the middle of the town that killed 47 and destroyed more than 30 buildings.

He said a key concern is that when tank cars are punctured, the released oil pours downhill through streets and into sewers and storm drains, creating a river of fire, if a spark sets the fuel alight.

The Gulf Gateway Terminal, located off Almonaster Boulevard on the northern side of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and about a half-mile north of the Lower 9th Ward, can load 100,000 barrels of crude oil a day from tank cars onto barges and ships. The oil is delivered from a variety of northwestern locations to New Orleans, including the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and oil tar sands fields in Canada, and the tank cars are moved into New Orleans through Uptown and the French Quarter by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and the Public Belt Rail Road.

In New Orleans, dozens of tank cars are being moved by rail by the New Orleans Public Belt railroad and by BNSF Railway to the Gulf Gateway Terminal on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, where more than 100,000 barrels of crude can be transferred from the cars to barges and ships each day.

The tank cars take a circuitous route through the New Orleans area to get there, often traveling by Public Belt tracks along the river through Old Jefferson to Uptown and then through the French Quarter.

Along the way, the rail cars pass within a block or two of  New Orleans Children’s Hospital, and between the Riverwalk shopping mall and the Ernest Morial Convention Center.

A recent photo of the Gulf Gateway Terminal on the company’s web site shows more than 500 oil rail cars adjacent to a transport dock, which is on the north side of the waterway off Almonaster Boulevard, and about a half-mile north of the Lower 9thWard.

Each tank car averages 30,000 gallons of crude oil, and if all the cars were full, that would mean 15 million gallons of oil were stored at the terminal after having been moved through the French Quarter.

0924411fbb2a4090594e5e28c0d164d9Just to give you a great little visual, the train and the cars go within blocks of the Children’s Hospital.  Doesn’t that make you feel just wonderful?  And these oil and gas guys are worried about their profit margins and saturating the already saturated damn NGL markets?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sleeping very well these days.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  You can post anything even though I basically covered one topic.  I just had to get the information out.  I hope you find it useful and horrifying.