Thursday Reads

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Good Morning!!

The top story in the news today is the supposed peace deal on Ukraine reached overnight. From The LA Times, Ukraine cease-fire deal reached after marathon talks.

After two days of hard negotiations, four European leaders have agreed on a cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced Thursday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin worked nonstop for seven hours Wednesday and for a few more hours Thursday before they arrived at a compromise to stop the violence.

“We agreed on a cease-fire that takes effect Sunday,” Putin said in a televised statement after the talks in Belarus’ capital of Minsk.  “The second position which I think is of extreme importance is the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the current front line for Ukrainian troops and the demarcation line agreed upon in the Sept. 19 Minsk agreements for the Donbass armed forces.”

Two regions of Donbass engulfed by the armed conflict will get wider special powers in the course of a constitutional reform yet to be conducted in Ukraine.

The Russian leader complained that the night of the talks was “not the best night of my life.”

But is the agreement real? Most commentators are skeptical. Forbes:

In the talking point of the hour, the newly agreed ceasefire offers a“glimmer of hope” for averting a full-scale interstate war and for cautiously deescalating Europe’s worst security crisis in a generation.

The Russia-Ukraine ceasefire, to be sure, is clearly a lot better than nothing. Given the failure of previous attempts on the part of Germany and France to mediate between Kiev and Moscow it’s clear that there very easily could have been no deal at all. One can quite easily imagine a scenario in which Putin and Poroshenko left that conference without signing anything and in which we’d all be one step closer to world war 3. It’s a small victory, but it is at least movement in the right direction. It even got the Russians to free Nadiya Savchenko, a fighter pilot captured by pro-Russian separatists and then sent to Russia where she is currently on trial for a litany of (largely fictitious) offenses

The problem with the ceasefire, however, is in the details. Probably the single most glaring deficiency is that it doesn’t actually start until Sunday the 15th. Until then, as far as I can tell from reading the relevant press reports, the two sides are free to blast away at each other until their heart’s content. For another few days, then, the status quo ante reigns much as it has for the past several months.

Another huge problem is that it is only after Sunday that both sides are supposed to remove their heavy weapons from the front line. And even after they start to remove these weapons, the agreement allows them a full two weeks to finish the process. Given the nastiness of the conflict to date, and its tendency to flare-up immediately after a lull, quite a lot of mayhem and destruction can happen between now and when the heavy weapons are finally removed to a safe distance.

Economist cover

At Business Insider, Michael B. Kelley writes: The new Economist cover says it all.

As Vladimir Putin engaged in marathon peace negotiations with Germany, France, and Ukraine in the capital of Belarus, Russian tanks were allegedly rolling into Ukraine.

So as a inherently flawed peace deal is in place, the circumstances surrounding the agreement say a lot more than the “glimmer of hope” provided by the latest compromise.

“The EU and NATO are Mr Putin’s ultimate targets,” The Economist writes. “To him, Western institutions and values are more threatening than armies. He wants to halt their spread, corrode them from within and, at least on the West’s fragile periphery, supplant them with his own model of governance.”

From Reuters via Business Insider, Ukraine: 50 Russian tanks and 40 missile systems rolled into the country while Putin talked peace.

About 50 tanks, 40 missile systems, and 40 armored vehicles crossed overnight into eastern Ukraine from Russia via the Izvaryne border crossing into the separatist Luhansk region, a Kiev military spokesman said on Thursday.

“The enemy continues to strengthen its forces in the most dangerous areas, especially in northeast Luhansk region and in the direction of Debaltseve,” spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a daily briefing, referring to a strategic transport hub that has been the focus of heavy fighting in recent weeks.

He said the tanks and other military hardware had crossed the border “despite statements by Russian officials about the absence of Russian military equipment and forces on Ukrainian territory.”

Read the whole article at The Economist, Putin’s war on the West, and read more commentary at Bloomberg View, A Time Bomb Wrapped in a Ukrainian Peace Deal, by Leonid Bershidsky. Also at Bloomberg, a backgrounder: Standoff in Ukraine.

Follow me below the fold for more breaking news.

In this March 24, 2010 photo released by CBS, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon, speaks with a news producer at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
JOHN P. FILO — AP

Last night, long-time CBS News journalist Bob Simon was killed in a car accident in New York City. From CBS News:

Bob Simon, the longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent and legendary CBS News foreign reporter died suddenly Wednesday night in a car accident in New York City.

The award-winning newsman was 73.

“Bob Simon was a giant of broadcast journalism, and a dear friend to everyone in the CBS News family. We are all shocked by this tragic, sudden loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bob’s extended family and especially with our colleague Tanya Simon,” said CBS News President David Rhodes.

“It’s a terrible loss for all of us at CBS News,” 60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager said in a statement. “It is such a tragedy made worse because we lost him in a car accident, a man who has escaped more difficult situations than almost any journalist in modern times.

From The Washington Post, Bob Simon, the embodiment of the fearless foreign correspondent, killed in New York car crash.

He covered wars and violence on every continent. He was kidnapped by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers in Iraq, where he was beaten and spat upon because he was a Jew. He survived, and he searched for more adventures.

“I would have killed him if I could have,” he later told reporters about one of his tormentors. “And I would have had no more remorse than I had every morning when I got up and killed a cockroach in my room.”

The award-winning veteran CBS News correspondent, Bob Simon, the embodiment of the fearless foreign correspondent, was killed on Wednesday night in a car accident on New York City’s West Side Highway.

Simon, best known for his long tenure on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” was riding in the back seat of a hired Lincoln Town Car about 6:45 p.m. when the driver lost control, sideswiped a Mercedes-Benz and ran into a metal median separating traffic on the highway, according to the New York Police Department. When police arrived at the scene, Simon was unconscious and unresponsive with injuries to his head and torso. He was taken to Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, where he was pronounced dead. He was 73.

The cab driver was listed in stable condition and the other driver was not injured, police said. New York police are investigating the incident.

measles rash on face of infant patientThe Measles outbreak continues. Reuters reports,  San Francisco commuters possibly exposed to measles on train.

Tens of thousands of commuters on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system may have been exposed to measles after an infectious Bay Area resident rode a train to and from work for three days last week, public health officials said on Wednesday.

The rider represents the first case of measles confirmed by Contra Costa County health officials during an outbreak of the disease that began in late December. The infected person also spent time at a San Francisco restaurant and bar on the evening of Feb. 4

Authorities tried to downplay the danger to commuters.

“Although the risk of contracting measles by being exposed on BART is low, Bay Area residents should be aware of the situation,” the county public health department said in a statement.

In the Bay Area case, the infected person was known to have traveled between the Lafayette station in the East Bay and the Montgomery station in San Francisco during the morning and evening rush-hour commutes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

That ride is 35 minutes long, but health officials said the highly infectious, airborne virus could have remained in the air for up to two hours. Because BART cars circulate throughout the Bay area, tens of thousands of people could have potentially been exposed, Trost said.

The infected rider, who was not identified by name, age or gender, also spent time at the E&O Kitchen and Bar in San Francisco on Wednesday evening, potentially exposing others who were in the restaurant between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., health officials said.

Public health officials said they were tracing the movements of the person, who is recovering and not hospitalized, and notifying others known to have had close contact.

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From the LA Times, California measles outbreak spreads to Canada.

Ten measles cases in Canada stem from a visit to Disneyland, health officials announced Wednesday, meaning the California-centered measles outbreak has spread to yet another country.

The 10 patients live in Quebec’s Lanaudiere region, and none had been vaccinated against measles, the Lanaudiere health and social services agency said in a statement. It did not specify the patients’ ages or say why they had not been vaccinated.

Although the agency did not mention Disneyland by name, it said it confirmed that “the first case contracted the virus during a visit to a park in California where other cases have been reported.”

What about infants who haven’t yet been vaccinated? Slate’s Melinda Wenner Moyer asks Does Breast-Feeding Protect My Baby From Measles?

A few days ago, a doctor told an acquaintance of mine that, in light of the ongoing measles outbreak, he would never take an infant on an airplane. As a mother who plans to take her 7-month-old across the country next month, I was not pleased to hear his advice. My first reaction was: That’s insane! But, as nearly 1 out of every 3 children under the age of 5 who catches measles ends up in the hospital, how worried should parents of as-yet-unvaccinated infants be? And what can parents do, if anything, to keep their babies safe? Here are some answers.

Is the outbreak really that bad?

It’s pretty bad. So far this year, 121 measles cases have been reported in 17 states and Washington, D.C., which means we are on track to beat last year’s numbers, when we had the most U.S. measles cases in 20 years. The 121 number may not seem like a lot, but with measles, cases can multiply quickly. That’s because the virus is wildly contagious. In an unvaccinated community, each measles-infected person will infect, on average, 12 to 18 other people. Each person infected with the flu, by contrast, only infects one or two others.

With a virus as contagious as measles, more than 95 percent of individuals in a community may need to be vaccinated to prevent an outbreak. As of 2013, there were 17 U.S. states where fewer than 90 percent of children 19 to 35 months old had received a dose of measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine. This means that measles may be able to spread quickly in many pockets of the U.S., and among those most at risk for catching the infection and getting really sick are infants, who typically do not receive their first doses of MMR until 12 months of age.

More at the link.

Measles virus

Measles virus

And if you really want all the gory details on Measles, read this long article by science writer Leigh Cowart at Medium, Measles is Just the Beginning. Here’s the introduction:

The great Persian physician Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakariyyāʾ al-Rāzī, often described grandfather of pediatric medicine, was a meticulous man. Before the age of 30, he discovered ethanol thanks to the careful application of the then-new art of distillation. When overseeing the building of a new hospital in Baghdad, al-Rāzī hung raw meat around the city and broke ground where the meat putrefied most slowly. And, in one of the 200 or so books that he wrote, he created the first and most extraordinarily detailed account of one of the most infectious diseases ever known to man.

Since al-Rāzī first carefully documented it, this little strand of RNA tucked in a protein envelope has enjoyed a rare kind of notoriety, even in the shock-and-awe world of infectious diseases. In 1529, the Spanish introduced it to Cuba, killing two out of three natives. Over the next decade or so, the virus ravaged Central America, decimating many populations and killing up to half of all Hondurans. And in 1693 in colonial America, Virginia governor Edmund Andros issued a proclamation for a “day of Humiliation and Prayer” in the hope of waylaying the virus.

It’s not like that today, but the disease is no slouch either. In 2013, according to the World Health Organization, there were 16 deaths from the virus each hour, around the world, for the entire year. It is one of the leading causes of death among young children, despite our ability to safely vaccinate against it. It is estimated that between the years of 2000 and 2013, vaccination has prevented 15.6 million deaths.

Do you recognize it yet?

A little more:

Though best known for its telltale dappled rash, measles is a wildly infectious upper respiratory disease. Like the flu, it’s airborne — and successful. It has a near-perfect infection rate: Put your baby in a room with a measles patient, and 9 times out of 10, measles is coming home with you. In the communal space shared between you and a coughing, sneezing measles-ridden asshole, the sweet oxygenated room air and unavoidable door handles are thought to remain infectious for up to two hours. And measles delivers a double whammy because a person becomes infectious before they even know they have it. Four days prior to the rash is when most people become able to spread the love. Here’s how the virus pulls it off.

So how do you know if you have measles? Symptoms start out like standard-issue wintertime gunk: fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes. A few days of that misery and the decorative stage of the illness starts with a carpet of red lesions that blossoms from head to toe. Speaking of carpets, the Carpet Cleaners Hawaii offers on of the best services in the island. Koplik’s spots may appear before the rash — that’s when the bright, beefy red of the inner cheeks become studded with lots of tiny, blue-white dots. Complications from measles arise in almost one in three reported cases, and range from diarrhea (8 percent) and pneumonia (6 percent) to encephalitis (0.1 percent) and death (0.2 percent).

It gets worse.

After coming in on the air like an old-school miasma, the measles virus jumps in through the upper respiratory tract or the eyes. However, before it can make a beeline for the closest lymph nodes, measles has to get inside the cell. To let you in on a secret, the entire field of molecular biology is basically just the study of the secret handshakes between tiny bits of stuff, and that’s exactly what is happening here. The measles virus is encased in a membrane that has two different surface proteins: hemagglutinin (H), which is like a magic wizard lock picker, and fusion (F), which clearly has the better name. The virus rolls on up to an epithelial cell and mashes its magical lock picker into a receptor site; slip it in the right place and it kicks off a molecular chain of events that wakes up the fusion protein. The fusion protein then blorps the virus into the cell. It’s all very technical.

Cowart says this is the first part of a planned four-part series on Measles.

Ooopsie!

Ooopsie!

I’m running out of space, but I just have to include the Jeb Bush e-mail fail. US News says it well: Jeb Bush, Florida’s “eGovernor,” Gets a Social Media F.

For Jeb Bush, who’s trying to build his brand (and a potential presidential candidacy) as a tech-savvy, 21st-century Republican – and by reminding everyone wary of his surname that he’s The Smart One, as opposed to The Decider, his gut-trusting older brother – this week’s had a few epic fails.

On Monday, the man who called himself Florida’s “first eGovernor” released a trove of emails he wrote and received when he held office there from 1999 to 2007, an effort to show transparency, and, arguably, how thoughtful he was when conducting state business.

“Email kept me connected to Floridians and focused on the mission of being their governor,” said Bush, who famously bragged about spending 30 hours a week writing emails, largely on that quaint device oldsters will recognize as a BlackBerry….

Then, Bush’s high-profile transparency caravan hit something it should have seen: Before publishing the emails to the web, his team forgot to redact the senders’ personal information. Names, addresses, Social Security numbers in some cases – just out there for the taking, and the exploitation, by criminal types, without the hassle of hacking some multinational corporation’s state-of-the-art servers.

Gizmodo writes: Jeb Bush Basically Just Doxxed Thousands of Floridians.

In many of the messages, people left their full names and personal information, and their email addresses are plainly available.

While some of these emails are from other political players, many are from ordinary Floridians who wrote to the governor with the intention of communicating with their elected official through email, not through a published public correspondence.

One of the emails, which contains the full name and email address of a person who wrote in to Bush fourteen years ago, explicitly asks the then-governor not to publish his long, personal email: “And please do not make this email public to anybody. I do not want my privacy violated, especially by the media.”

Awkward!

And that wasn’t the only Bush boo-boo that involved social media. He hired a guy with a long history of misogynistic tweets. From Bustle: Ethan Czahor, Jeb Bush’s Chief Technology Officer, Deletes A Series Of Awful & Offensive Tweets

Yesterday, Bush got the message and redacted the personal information and Czahor has “resigned,” but come on. It’s toolittle, too late. Does it matter if a presidential candidate is tech savvy? Yes it does, writes Nathaniel Mott at Pando Daily, Jeb Bush is “technically impaired,” and yes, that is a problem.

Well I really went on and on this morning, didn’t I? What’s on your reading list today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday.


45 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Interesting . . .

    On Tuesday night the NYT republished their first profile of Adolf Hitler–written in 1922. It wasn’t very perceptive…

    A summary from ABC News:

    While the paper accurately characterizes Hitler’s hatred toward Jews and the popularity of his vitriolic public speeches, the Times also quotes sources who were just a bit off the mark.

    The Times wrote: “Several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.”

    The Times also quoted an unnamed politician who said Hitler was being politically deft for exaggerating his anti-Semitism.

    “You can’t expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims,” the newspaper quoted the politician as saying. “You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you really are leading them.”

  2. bostonboomer says:

    “Significant Nor’easter” to hit Boston area over the weekend.

    The National Weather Service said there is “high confidence of a significant snowstorm” that may have blizzard conditions on late Saturday night and Sunday.

    Light snow is expected to arrive late Saturday afternoon, but the heavier snow won’t hit until late Saturday night so don’t cancel those Valentine’s Day plans.

    7News’ Jeremy Reiner said snow will continue to fall heavily through midday Sunday. A foot of snow in Eastern and Central Massachusetts is likely with more snow possible along the North Shore.

    Blizzard conditions are possible with strong winds expected Sunday morning and into the afternoon. Minor coastal flooding may also pose a problem on Sunday.

  3. The situation with Putin in Ukraine reminds me of the dictator film from Charlie Chaplin. When Chaplin as dictator is discussing peace terms and invasion of a country with the films Italian dictator counterpart.

    There is a strange tone on seeing news of Simon’s death especially with all the fuss about Williams. The two men, one who live the real danger and did not expound on the storyline. The other one seemingly unable to draw a line at telling tales to promote his image of what he wanted the public to see. A journalist in the form of the first man…who tragically is killed in a car accident while riding in the back of a cab in NYC.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. Fannie says:

    That last paragraph from A Time Bpmb Wrapped in a Ukrainian Peace Deal: “it’s clear there is a strong will to look for a lasting solution,” apparently somebody has faith that Putin will deliver, and I don’t see any clear thinking on his part. Just saying.

  5. ANonOMouse says:

    This is huge and important battle in Alabama and very important news to me and thought some of you might find it interesting.

    Roy Moore, who has already directed Probate Judges not to Obey the Federal Courts order that found the Alabama ban on gay marriage unconstitutional now says he would defy SCOTUS

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/12/politics/ray-moore-alabama-gay-marraige-supreme-court-
    slavery/

    CNN has the complete 25 minute interview if any of you want to hear it. It is very interesting.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Isn’t he the guy who put up the Ten Commandments memorial?

        • RalphB says:

          That’s the nutcase all right.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Moore’s entire argument is based on the premise that because the Declaration of Independence says “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” that all rights come from God. Therefore if all rights come from god, then god’s law is applicable in making decisions regarding what is and what isn’t the legal definition of marriage. If you listen to the entire 25 minute interview, you will hear him say as much in a round-about way.

            He’s a complete whack job who is so lost in his own sense of messianic self-importance, that he is impossible to reason with.

          • RalphB says:

            His nullification argument was decided pretty well in 1865.

    • Fannie says:

      He’s just a hateful old whitey. In his life time, he has only won 2 elections. The people of Alabama have voted against him for the most part. So there is more to it than he wants to lead people to believe.

      The Declaration of Independence is not the US Constitution, and he knows that. He’s full of hate. By the way, there is a petition to get his butt off the bench for good.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Some good news from WGBH (NPR) for the 47%:

    As Commodity Prices Plunge, Groceries May Be Next

    • RalphB says:

      Transportation costs should have fallen like a stone. Unless there are drought, or other weather related, shortages I think prices should have dropped already to some degree.

  7. RalphB says:

    Great article on Paul and the Fed. If you’re curious why he’s an idiot, this is a nice explanation,

    WaPo: Clueless in Kentucky: Rand Paul’s ideas about the Fed make absolutely no sense

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell the charlatans from the cranks.

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. RalphB says:

    Apparently there is no blizzard of homosexuals falling from the sky in Alabama. This is funny.

    TPM: Alabama’s ‘Redneck News’ Reports On Changes After Gay Marriage (VIDEO)

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Our new Republican governor is not getting rave reviews for his handling of the snow crisis.

    Amid The T’s Crisis, Gov. Baker Is Showing His Management Style. It’s Not Pretty.

    MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott was in [Baker’s] crosshairs — until she abruptly resigned on Wednesday. We don’t yet know the precise reasons for her departure, but the pressure from the governor’s office seems a likely factor. Rather than back his MBTA chief, Baker subtly saddled Scott with the blame for problems that weren’t her fault.

    While Baker didn’t openly criticize Scott, he made plain his displeasure with the T’s operation under her direction. “It’s pretty clear they need a new operating plan,” he said, implicitly accusing Scott and her agency of incompetence. He described delays as “simply not acceptable” and announced his “disappointment” with the system’s performance, as though it could have been better in spite of its aged equipment and vice-tight budget. In an attempt to insulate himself from the T’s dysfunction, he made sure everyone knows that he has no responsibility for its management, which is the work of a “board [that] was, and is, made up of [former Gov. Deval Patrick’s] appointments.”

    There is your executive master class. When the going gets tough, covertly insult your subordinates while protecting your own hide. Baker tried to backtrack, saying Scott was “doing everything she possibly [could].” So his earlier comments seem like kneejerk panic. More leadership genius on display.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Who among Baker’s brass is not looking over their shoulder now, wondering when the boss is going to throw them under the bus, assuming it can make it out of the depot? And how much harder will it be to fill positions in the future? Administrators will think twice about signing on with a man who publicly rides his high horse all over them.

      • RalphB says:

        Sounds a lot like a Romney there.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Yup. We could have had Martha Coakley, a genuinely decent human being. But Mass voters don’t seem to want to vote for women in higher office. The only one so far is Elizabeth Warren.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Snow-Removing Equipment, Crews Arrive in Mass.

    Help is coming in from NY, NJ, Vermont, Maine, and PA. Plus Maine is sending 50 National Guard troops to add to the 600 already called out from MA.

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Brian Williams claimed to have been embedded with Seal Team 6.

    “I flew into Baghdad, invasion plus three days, on a blackout mission at night with elements of SEAL Team 6, and I was told not to make any eye contact with them or initiate any conversation,” Williams said. (Three days after the U.S. invasion would have been March 22, 2003, not April 9, 2003, which was the day Williams broadcasted from the Baghdad airport.) ….

    …NBC has not confirmed Williams’ account of the events. Justin Balding, who was a producer with Williams at the start of the Iraq war and still works at NBC, did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment on the flight into Baghdad. An NBC News spokeswoman declined to comment on the flight with SEAL Team 6.

    In the 2012 “Late Show” appearance, Williams also recalled carrying a box of Wheat Thins, which he said a hungry special operator dug into with a “hand the size of a canned ham.” They got to talking, and Williams told the commando how much he admired his knife.

    “Darned if that knife didn’t show up at my office a couple weeks later,” Williams told Letterman.

    The gifts didn’t stop there: More than eight years later, Williams had apparently maintained his relationship with one or more members of the fearsome SEAL Team 6. According to Williams’ recollection, one special operator appreciated his relationship with the anchor so much that he sent Williams a precious token from the bin Laden raid.

    “About six weeks after the Bin Laden raid, I got a white envelope and in it was a thank-you note, unsigned,” Williams said on “Letterman” in January 2013. “And in it was a piece of the fuselage of the blown-up Black Hawk in that courtyard. Sent to me by one of my friends.”

    Must read.

    • bostonboomer says:

      CNN;

      CNN analyst Peter Bergen said on “Anderson Cooper 360” that he was told by his sources in the Seal community that it would be impossible for Williams to have ever traveled with Seal Team 6.

      “We do not embed journalists with any elements of that unit,” Bergen was told by one source.
      In the case of the memorabilia that Williams says he received from “his friends” in the Seal community: “that doesn’t pass any sniff test,” a Seal officer told Bergen.