Here we are on the last day of 2015. I’m going to make this a link dump, as JJ calls it, because I know it will be another quiet day and I once again overslept. I hope I can get myself back into a normal routine in 2016! So here are some stories I’ve been reading.
The National Memo: This Year In Crazy: 2015 Belonged To The Wingnuts.
As you may recall, this year kicked off with a big national conversation about the efficacy of vaccinations — setting the tone for a host of debates utterly untethered to reality, whether it was fraudulent anti-abortion videos meant to “expose” Planned Parenthood, or a U.S. senator using a single snowball to disprove 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate science.
We saw loony conspiracy theories that would be too unrealistic for an episode of 24 gaining currency with a surprising number of politicians, as when a handful of paranoid Texans thought that a military exercise was the opening salvo in a federal invasion. This delusion then gained traction and metastasized wildly in the patchwork of talk radio shows and fringe websites that have become the touchstone of our political discourse, until even Texas governor Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz voiced their concern.
The Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage was a landmark victory for civil rights, but it sent conservative Christians into an apocalyptic tizzy. Governors tried to pass legislation to legally discriminate against same-sex couples under the reprehensible camouflage of “religious liberty,” and one county clerk became a national martyr when she spent five nights in jail rather than let two men walk down the aisle.
When a racist terrorist shot up a black church with a gun,conservatives told us we could blame the attack on anything except racism and guns. Finally, we all just blamed a flag. Even so, down in Dixie and elsewhere, there were many who fought to fly it proudly — on the lawn of the South Carolina state house and over a grassy knoll in Texas just off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
It was hard to narrow it down, but based on your votes, we have assembled the top 5 crazies from this year’s archives.
Head over to the National Memo to read their top choices–it’s worth clicking the link just to see the illustration at the top of the article.
Here’s a WTF story for you from PC Magazine: Twitter Criticized For Hiring White Male as New Diversity Chief.
The microblogging service this week announced that Jeffrey Siminoff will join the company to lead global diversity and inclusion at Twitter. Siminoff has an impressive resume as Apple’s former Director of Worldwide Inclusion and Diversity, but there’s just one problem, according to critics: He’s a white male.
His appointment was criticized by diversity supporters such as Mark S. Luckie, who doesn’t seem to have a problem with Siminoff himself, but said it “makes no sense” to hire a white male for the role.
“Not saying a white guy can’t be head of diversity but for a company that hires a majority white guys it sends the wrong message,” Luckie wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “I’m sure he’s a great guy but you’ve set the company back instead of moving it forward”….
Twitter last year said its workforce is 70 percent male and 30 percent female. Fifty nine percent of its employees are white, while 29 percent are Asian. African-Americans, Latinos, and people of other ethnicities represent just a fraction of those numbers.
Why is Chris Cillizza writing for a major newspaper?
I write a weekly column awarding someone — usually a political figure — the “Worst Week in Washington.” It’s just what it sounds like. At the end of the year, I write one big piece about who had the “Worst Year in Washington.” President Obama won it in 2013 and 2014. This year, I named co-winners: Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
How could I compare Jeb(!) with Hillary, people screamed. One is barely relevant in the presidential race; the other is a clear front-runner for her party’s nomination. Naming Clinton as a co-winner was either evidence of my “both sides do it” obsession or the latest example of me being just plain dumb.
Roughly 1 billion people sent me this tweet from ESPN’s Nate Silver, which provided further proof of my (a) bias or (b) stupidity.
It’s possible, of course, that I am biased, dumb or maybe a little bit of both. But let me explain why I picked Clinton and why I stand by it.
You’re biased, stupid, ignorant, moronic, out-of-touch, and the ultimate Villager, Chris. Read Cillizza’s convoluted defense of his stupidity at the link.
This news just broke at Politico: Two of Carson’s top aides resign.
Campaign manager Barry Bennett and communications director Doug Watts both resigned, effective immediately, on Thursday. “Barry Bennett and I have resigned from the Carson campaign effective immediately,” Watts said in a statement. “We respect the candidate and we have enjoyed helping him go from far back in the field to top tier status.”
The announcement comes as Carson has struggled to halt a dramatic slide in his poll numbers as doubts arose about his grasp of foreign policy issues and the accuracy of his personal narrative.
At the sold out campaign event in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Trump lobbed an attack at President Obama’s action on climate change, saying Obama still flies on “a very old Air Force One…spewing stuff” despite being concerned about his carbon footprint.
“You can’t use hair spray, because hair spray is going to affect the ozone,” the billionaire mogul told crowd.
He continued, pausing to pantomime spraying and styling his shag carpet-like hair: “I’m in my room, in New York City, and I want to put a little spray…but I hear they don’t want me to use hairspray, they want me to use the pump.”
The presidential candidate very much prefers aerosol hair spray to “the pump” version, which he said “comes out in big globs and it’s stuck in your hair and you say, ‘oh my god, I’ve gotta take a shower again because my hair’s all screwed up.’”
Trump also contended that using aerosol hair products in his “sealed” apartment can’t cause harm to the environment.
“I’m sitting in this concealed apartment, this concealed unit – you know, I really do live in a very nice apartment – but it’s sealed! It’s beautiful! I don’t think anything gets out,” he concluded.
Aerosol cans haven’t contained ozone-damaging chemicals since the late 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency imposed regulations on the products, but other chemicals in the cans do raise your carbon footprint “ever so slightly,” according to Scientific American. Trump has also railed against EPA water regulations for ruining his signature hairdo.
I have to wonder why all those gun-toting, manly white men who follow Trump don’t find him a little effeminate talking about his hairdo all the time.
In the same speech Trump babbled a lot of nonsense about how women supposedly don’t like Hillary Clinton. Politico:
The real estate mogul told the Hilton Head crowd that Clinton has been hitting him “really hard with the women card, OK? Really hard.”
“And I had to say, OK, that’s enough. That’s enough. And we did a strong number. She’s not going to win,” Trump said, reiterating that “I love” the concept of a female president, but it “can’t be her.” ….
Hillary Clinton is “horrible,” Trump continued. “But I’ll tell you who doesn’t like Hillary are women. Women don’t like Hillary. I see it all the time,” he proclaimed to cheers in the audience. (The latest national CNN poll found that 82 percent of female registered Democrats have a favorable opinion of Clinton, while 15 percent have an unfavorable view.)
The former secretary of state is “always so theatrical” when she criticizes him, Trump observed, mimicking Clinton for saying “Mr. Trump said this and that and this.”
“I shouldn’t do it. I just have to turn off the television sometimes. She just gives me a headache,” Trump said, before remarking, “Although last night I think I gave her a big headache.
Hillary would swat Trump like an annoying mosquito.
Washington Post: How Rubio helped his ex-con brother-in-law acquire a real estate license.
When Marco Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.
In July 2002, Rubio sent a letter on his official statehouse stationery to the Florida Division of Real Estate, recommending Orlando Cicilia “for licensure without reservation.” The letter, obtained by The Washington Post under the Florida Public Records Act, offers a glimpse of Rubio using his growing political power to assist his troubled brother-in-law and provides new insight into how the young lawmaker intertwined his personal and political lives.
Rubio did not disclose in the letter that Cicilia was married to his sister, Barbara, or that the former cocaine dealer was living at the time in the same West Miami home as Rubio’s parents. He wrote that he had known Cicilia “for over 25 years,” without elaborating.
I actually don’t have a problem with ex-cons getting jobs. I hear Obama is thinking of issuing an executive order to prevent employers from asking about criminal records. I don’t think this will hurt Rubio much.
New York Times: Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat. (Spoiler: they are people registered as Dems who call themselves Repubs and they are mostly in the South.)
Think Progress: Another Texas Republican Under Fire For Rape ‘Joke.’
ABC News: Man Charged With Arson in Houston Mosque Fire says he was a member of the congregation.
Des Moines Register: Jeb Bush cancels Iowa TV buy, shifts money to ground game.
What stories are you following?
I slacked off on Friday…with Christmas and all…there was no Friday Nite Lite thread. Well, I will make-up for it now with a comic filled post. I’ll throw some links in that you might find interesting.
This next one is a local NC cartoon, but the same could be said for the GOP asswipes in any double red State: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by John Cole
In Louisiana and several other states: 30,000 Louisianans Scheduled to Lose Food Stamps | Al Jazeera America
Joanika Davis relies on the $194 per month she receives in food stamp benefits every month to help her get by as she searches for employment.
But on Jan. 1, Davis is set to lose that financial lifeline — one of approximately 31,000 Louisianians set to suffer as a result of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reinstate the work requirement for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in his state.
SNAP rules typically allow full benefits to single able-bodied adults only if they have jobs or are enrolled in a job-training program. Otherwise, they may access food stamp benefits for no more than three months every three years. States with high unemployment can apply for a federal waiver, dropping that work requirement and allowing single adults to access full benefits regardless of their job status.
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, nearly every state in the country sought and was granted a federal waiver at some point. But recently, a number of states with Republican governors have allowed their waivers to expire, citing improved economic circumstances and a desire to get their food stamp recipients back to work. Jindal, a Republican, allowed Louisiana’s waiver to lapse on Oct. 1.
“We continue to seek opportunities for SNAP recipients to increase their self-sufficiency. Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition,” said Suzy Sonnier, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, in a Sept. 30 statement.
Starting in January, Davis, who told Al Jazeera that she is still hunting for a job, will have to find ways to make up a monthly shortfall of nearly $200. “Why should I have to fight for food right now?” she asked. “Why should I have to fight to drink water?”
And it is not only people in Louisiana who are losing out.
Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have recently allowed the work requirement to be reimposed, leaving 28 states with their food stamp waivers intact in fiscal year 2016.
The people affected by the reinstatement of the work requirement tend to be among the poorest of the poor, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an economic think tank. In 2014 able-bodied, childless, unemployed adults on food stamps had an average of $2,200 in gross income, the center found.
It also found that states that reimpose the work requirement tend to see a sudden sharp drop in SNAP participants, suggesting that thousands of unemployed recipients are unable to find work and maintain their eligibility.
“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 dollars a month in food stamps — that’s really kind of a stereotype,” said Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project. “The reality is a lot of people want to work. There simply aren’t jobs…”
On the latest Trump news: 25% of Donald Trump’s political spending goes to his own companies – Quartz
“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Donald Trump told Fortune in 2000, during his first abortive run for president.
He was referring to a $1 million motivational speaking deal he got from Tony Robbins that he timed to coincide with his campaign stops. Then, he didn’t dominate the headlines—apparently the Clinton-Bush-Gore psychodrama was more compelling—and Trump’s greatest accomplishment was winning the Reform party nomination in California with a scant 15,311 votes. (His bon mots haven’t changed much—Fortune refers to “his usual critiques of Pat Buchanan (‘a Hitler lover’), Bill Bradley (‘a total disaster’), George W. Bush (‘no Einstein’), Fidel Castro (‘a bad guy’), North Korea (‘run by some very bad people’), and Russia (‘totally mixed up’).”)
This time around, as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, he operates on a more rarified and lucrative plane: Trump’s companies have already earned $1.4 million from his campaign.
The billionaire builder often argues that his wealth guarantees his political independence, and describes his campaign as “self-funding.” That’s no longer true: While he was the main source of campaign funds during the early part of his run, the most recent financial disclosures through the end of September 2015, show Trump put less money into his campaign than his donors—and he stands to profit in particular from their backing.
Like the article says…”Follow the money.” And read the rest at the link.
The storms this Christmas have been terrible….The Mississippi River Is About to Have a Record Flood Completely Out of Season
The Mississippi River is flooding in a big way right now, at the wrong time of year, and is forecasted to match or break 22-year-old crest records over the next few days. Meteorologists are calling it “insane.”
Over the next three to four days, the Mississippi is predicted to reach a crest height of 49.7 feet at Chester, Illinois, one of several locations where the National Weather Service records data about the river. As of Tuesday afternoon, the river has already risen to 40.8 feet. According to Taylor Trogdon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Memphis, that is an “absolutely remarkable” forecast.
The “great flood of 1993,” as it has come to be known, was “one of the most significant and damaging natural disasters ever to hit the United States,” according to a National Weather Service hydrologist, writing in 1996. “Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, hundreds of levees failed, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.”
A few links regarding Cruz:
A woman spoke to C-SPAN at a recent Cruz rally in Mechanicsville, Virginia, where she explained that she intended to vote for the Texas Republican to drive President Barack Obama, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, from office.
“I don’t like Obama no more,” the woman explained. “He’s ruined our country, ruined Christmas. He’s let the Muslims in. We can’t say that word, we’ve got to be ashamed of it — and we’re not ashamed people. We’re a proud people, and we’re gonna take our country back. So watch out, Obama! We’re coming.”
The reporter asked the woman to explain how Obama had ruined Christmas.
“He’s scared the little children,” she said. “They’re not allowed to have Santa Claus in the schools where, you know, it might offend the Muslims. But what about us?”
The woman’s loopy rant was reminiscent of remarks made earlier this month by Trump supporter Susan DeLemus, a New Hampshire state representative, during a CNN focus group.
“We’ve got people in positions of power who I know for a fact are liars. Liars!” DeLemus said. “I watch the TV — My president comes on the TV and he lies to me! I know he’s lying. He lies all the time.”
Cruz himself is a nut:
Via Conservative Tribune. com (I won’t quote the thing cause I don’t want any crazy Cruz troll nuts here making trouble…) you can look it up by the title of the article: Ted Cruz Issues Huge Statement on What the Bible Says About Killing Muslims… This Is Brutal
Sen. Ted Cruz said that he would not be violating his Christian faith if he followed through on his vow to “carpet bomb” Islamic State group militants — a statement that’s sure to upset liberals across the country.
The Texas Republican and presidential candidate told Newsmax Wednesday: ”Let’s be clear, the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ which is different from ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
“Defending yourself is an obligation of any president. It is not murder,” Cruz added in the interview with Ed Berliner on “The Hard Line.”
What the fuck is that? Justified killing for “Jesus.” Sounds like what a religious zealot says after shooting and killing a bunch of innocent people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.
But wait there is more:
Cruz pointed out that while America killed Nazis in World War II, it wasn’t murder.
“When you have the face of evil that has declared war … then it is the essence of duty to defend your nation, to defend the innocent,” he said. “When it comes to jihadists, they have declared war on us, and that’s what President Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to acknowledge.”
The leader of the United States should fight radical Islam the same way President Ronald Reagan fought the Soviets when bringing an end to the Cold War, Cruz said. Reagan aimed his foreign policy around the notion of defeating communism — a strategy of “we win, they lose.”
Reagan “championed tax reform and regulatory reform,” Cruz said, which “unchained the American economy.” The economic growth that resulted from from his reform allowed the former president to rebuild the military and challenge Soviet communism “on every front, strategically we bankrupted the Soviet Union and won the Cold War.”
There is recorded sound from the interview at the conservative tribune link…if you must hear it. Five fucking minutes of this shit. Of course the CT (cuntservative tribune) is all hard for Cruz.
Speaking of Reagan…up next, a link sent to me from Boston Boomer: Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed” – Salon.com
Reagan embarrassed himself in news conferences, Cabinet meetings. Recalling how GOP cringed at his lack of interest
I always thought Reagan was much further gone with Alzheimer’s than we’re all led on now to believe…if that makes any sense. (As I am probably in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s myself.)
I thought many of you would find this a good read: Sudan’s midwives take on Female Genital Mutilation
My Granny would throw a bucket of water out the back door, to wash away the bad luck from the last year…I don’t remember if it was dirty water or not. Actually…I think she would toss a big pot of water. (One of her big cooking pots full…) So it would not be “dirty” and maybe that is why it never worked? She always had terrible luck…
Twenty Indian students carrying valid student visas for colleges in California were denied entry in Chicago and put on planes back to India on Sunday, following other incidents of the U.S. turning away people from certain countries.
The U.S. is in a heightened state of vigilance since the terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in San Bernardino came in on a fiance visa, prompting concern that potential terrorists could find loopholes to enter the country on valid visas or through the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of friendly countries to visit the United States without visas.
Some foreigners have already been barred from entering the country without being told why. Last week, a British Muslim family planning a trip to Disneyland was told by United Kingdom border officials that they wouldn’t be allowed to board a plane to the United States. Another 20 British Muslim families were reportedly denied entry into the United States without explanation.
From Riese via AutoStraddle.com: Our Picks For 2015’s Best Longform By Women
Hey, so, maybe you’ve heard about this gender byline gap? Like how in print, men make up about 62% of bylines in the most widely circulated newspapers, and 58% of those at the top four online news sites, (according to the Women’s Media Center). Or how women head fewer major US newspapers today than they did 10 years ago and are underrepresented in op-eds, book reviews and photojournalism. Or maybe you read that article by Dayna Evans on Matter about the otherwise progressive Gawker Media’s treatment of women, which noted that if Jezebel was excluded from the company’s editorial statistics, its staff would be 28% female. (It’s 38% female with Jezebel included.) Perhaps you’re aware that racial diversity in media is even worse — people of color account for only 13.34% of journalists at daily newspapers.
I’ve been assembling weekly, and then bi-weekly, lists of the web’s best longform for Autostraddle for four years now, and because of all those reasons above (and because we love women around here), I wanted to do a year-end round-up of the best longform written by women. I qualified “longform” as containing 3,000 words or more, but there are ten or so articles I included despite falling under that word count. I wanted a racially diverse group of writers and I wanted to represent as many independent and women’s publications as possible — which was tougher than I’d hoped, as most mainstream women’s magazines and even some of the most hyped new media sites for women rarely publish articles over 2,000 words. Independent women’s publications, like ours, face serious budget constraints when it comes to commissioning longer pieces outside of personal essays. But even well-funded properties go light on women’s longform; it remains far easier to find longform by women in major men’s magazines like GQ and Esquire than their female counterparts, like Elle and Vogue. As Amanda Hess wrote in Slate following a controversy regarding a male-dominated Port Magazine feature about the future of print media, “I hope we can also take this opportunity to question why women’s writing is aligned so heavily with personal essays and service journalism — the forms that are the cheapest and ad-friendliest to produce.”
That being said, it wasn’t hard to find women writing amazing shit all over the internet. Longreadswas an incredible resource for me when putting this together, and if you don’t follow them, you really ought to. Specifically, Emily Perper does some incredible work over there. And although I remain bitter that Longform.org has yet to include our site on their app or website, I’m madly in love with their app and their website, and have been for years.
In some of the reporting pieces, men also were writers of the piece. I only selected a piece that had men involved if there were equal or more women involved.
In other news dealing with Women and GLBT’s Issues:
Hospital Refuses Pregnancy-Related Care Again Because of Religious Directives | American Civil Liberties Union Another Catholic Hospital..
Forty-three religious universities applied for waivers in 2015 that will allow them to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Department of Education approved twenty-two of those requests, and the rest remain pending,BuzzFeed reported.
The number of schools seeking these waivers has spiked in recent years, jumping from one school in 2012 to 43 this year, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.
Another story not getting much notice: Manning: Healing Continues 125 Years After Wounded Knee Massacre – ICTMN.com
This year marks the 125thanniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre. On December 29, 1890, as many as 300 innocent and unarmed Lakota men, women, children, infants, and elders were gunned down by the United States 7thCavalry at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. After the bloodshed, Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and his band lie dead in the snow where they remained frozen for three days, until all were buried in a mass grave.
For decades, the Wounded Knee massacre was masqueraded as a battle, and marked in many American history books as such. A few months following the massacre, the United States government awarded 20 troops of the U.S. 7thCavalry with the Medal of Honor, and to this day, those medals have yet to be rescinded.
Now some other links…Science, History and Art, oh…and a huge ass natural gas leak in California:
Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground, and it shows no signs of stopping,” as according to the California Air Resources Board, methane – a greenhouse gas 72 times more impactful in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – has been escaping from the Aliso Canyon site with force equivalent “to a volcanic eruption” for about two months now.
New infrared footage exposes the massive leak…
Go to link to see that video…also looks like Erin Brockovich is working on this…
Infographic of leak (and potential solution)
As TheAntiMedia.org’s Claire Bernish details, methane gas continues spewing, unchecked, into the air over southern California from a fractured well to an underground storage site — at such an alarming rate that low-flying planes have necessarily been diverted by the FAA, lest internal combustion engines meet highly volatile gas and, well, blow the entire area to hell.
This is, indeed, the biggest environmental catastrophe since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; and for now, there is no way to stop it.
This methane disaster is worse than can be sufficiently described in words, because while it’s estimated well over 100,000 pounds of methane spew into the atmosphere every hour, the leak can’t be halted, at least until spring. Even then, that stoppage depends entirely on the efficacy of a proposed fix — which remains a dubiously open question.
Yeah, I am ending it on that disturbing note. There is plenty more at the link…it is a very long read. (I will say it is via a website called intellihub.com. I am not familiar with that site, however…they do quote from reliable sources i.e. LATimes, CBS News, NY Daily News, court documents etc., which you can also verify by clicking those links within the article itself.) In fact I would also suggest you read the comments…it may lead you to research into more natural gas leaks you can look up on Google…some fun for ya on the crust of the shitty year “2015” as we head over the cusp of the new year “2016.”
That does it for this Wednesday’s post…y’all enjoy this last couple of days of 2015!
What is going on in your part of the world? This is an open thread…
In just a few more days it will be 2016, and the slow news zone of the holidays will be over. I sure hope the new year will be an improvement over 2015. At least I’m hoping to see woman President of the U.S. by next year’s end.
I’m going to avoid politics today. I’m just not in the mood for stories about Donald Trump attacking Hillary and anyone else who dares to say something truthful about him and his campaign.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by the story of Pompeii and how the city was frozen in time by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The ancient city is in the news now, because Italy has restored six houses and opened them to public view. CNN:
Newly restored ruins in the ancient city of Pompeii, with intricate mosaic tiles, bathhouses and even graffiti were officially unveiled to the public on Thursday after a lengthy restoration process.
The project, including six restored homes, is the result of a 2012 partnership between the EU’s European Commission and Italian authorities.
The partnership spent 150 million Euros for 12 projects geared towards consolidating “high risk” structures, building a drainage system, and restoring artifacts at the UNESCO World Heritage site situated near Naples, Italy.
Pompeii is one of most famous historical sites in the world. In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius buried the town and its unsuspecting inhabitants in hot rock, volcanic ash and noxious gas. Those who did not escape, suffocated or burned. Some were covered in several feet of ash and preserved and fossilized in the process. The resulting archeological record is remarkable. Its furnished rooms, paintings and even plaster casts of deceased inhabitants offer a detailed picture of life during the Early Roman Empire.
The Italian government has been accused of neglecting the historic site, but now it is apparently committed to maintaining and improving it.
The Villa dei Misteri (Villa of Mysteries), an estate on the outskirts of Pompeii’s city centre that features some of the best-preserved frescoes of the site, is now open to the public after one of many restoration projects ordered by the EU….
Pompeii, a busy commercial city overlooking the Mediterranean, was destroyed in A.D. 79 by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius that killed thousands of people and buried the city in 20 feet of volcanic ash.
But the ash also helped preserve Pompeii’s treasures, providing precious information about life in the ancient world.
The first excavations began in the 18th century, but even today only two-thirds of the site’s 60 hectares (150 acres) have been uncovered.
In recent years, Pompeii has been bedeviled by neglect and mismanagement characteristic of Italy’s underdeveloped south, as well as brushes with the corruption that has infected some other important public works in Italy, including its Expo 2015 World’s Fair in Milan and the Moses water barrier project in Venice.
The ash also preserved the shapes of the bodies of many people who perished in the disaster.
Through plaster casts experts have managed to show the devastating scene of a ‘scared boy on his mother’s lap’.
It is thought the child, who was around four, had run to his mother as Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the Roman town in ash in 79 AD. Read about the making of the plaster casts at the link.
You can see many more stunning photos from Pompeii at the links I’ve provided and at this Pinterest page.
NPR recently covered the story of another important restoration project, that of Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba.
It’s been a year since the U.S. and Cuba began normalizing relations. Tourism, business and cultural exchanges are booming. And there is another curious benefactor of those warmer ties — Ernest Hemingway, or at least, his legacy. The writer lived just outside of Havana for 20 years, and that house, called the Finca Vigia, has long been a national museum.
But years of hot, humid Caribbean weather has taken a toll on the author’s thousands of papers and books. A Boston-based foundation is helping restore those weathered treasures, and who better to lead that effort than the original dean of home repairs: Bob Vila, of public television’s This Old House. He tells NPR’s Carrie Kahn that he has a personal connection to Cuba. “I’m American-born Cuban,” he says. “My Havana-born parents emigrated during the latter part of World War II, and I was born in Miami, raised there and partially in Havana up until the revolution in 1959.”
Read more about the project and listen to the story at the link above.
Did you hear about the siting of a giant squid in Japan on December 24? From CNN:
It isn’t every day that a mystery from the deep swims into plain sight. But on Christmas Eve, spectators on a pier in Toyama Bay in central Japan were treated to a rare sighting of a giant squid.
The creature swam under fishing boats and close to the surface of Toyama Bay, better known for its firefly squid, and reportedly hung around the bay for several hours before it was ushered back to open water.
It was captured on video by a submersible camera, and even joined by a diver, Akinobu Kimura, owner of Diving Shop Kaiyu, who swam in close proximity to the red-and-white real-life sea monster.
“My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it,” he told CNN.
“This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me. I guided the squid toward to the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea.” Here’s a screen shot from video footage (CBS News).
I was browsing through some end-of-the-year articles on books, and I came across this interesting article at the BBC. The article is based on a new book by Dominic Sandbrook:
Taking Tolkien seriously is inevitably complicated by the fact that he has long been associated in the public mind with a sweaty, furtive gang of misfits and weirdoes – by which I mean those critics who for more than half a century have been sneering at his books and their readers. Self-consciously highbrow types often have surprisingly intolerant views about what other people ought to be writing, and when the first volume of The Lord of the Rings was published in the summer of 1954, a few weeks before Lord of the Flies, many were appalled by its nostalgic medievalism.
A prime example was the American modernist Edmund Wilson, who in a hilariously wrong-headed review for The Nation dismissed Tolkien’s book as “juvenile trash”, marked by – of all things! – an “impotence of imagination”. In the New Statesman, meanwhile, Maurice Richardson, himself a writer of surreal fantasy stories, conceded that The Lord of the Rings might appeal to “very leisured boys”, but claimed that it made him want to march through the streets carrying the sign: “Adults of all ages! Unite against the infantilist invasion.”
Even decades later, long after Tolkien’s book had become an international cultural phenomenon, the academic medievalist Peter Godman was still assuring readers of the London Review of Books that it was merely an “entertaining diversion for pre-teenage children”. Michael Moorcock, likening it to the works of A A Milne, dismissed The Lord of the Rings as “a pernicious confirmation of the values of a morally bankrupt middle class“, while Philip Pullman, always keen to sneer at those authors from whom he had borrowed so liberally, called it “trivial“, and “not worth arguing with”. Yet none of this, of course, has ever made the slightest dent in Tolkien’s popularity.
Read the rest at the link.
Finally, here’s an interesting piece on a popular book of the moment and how it got confused with another book of the same title.
The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller, set in contemporary London, with a female protagonist and a female author — Paula Hawkins. It was published this year, and received wide acclaim.
Girl on a Train is a psychological thriller, set in contemporary London, with a female protagonist and a female author — Alison Waines. It was published in 2013, and received almost no attention….
“An incredible number of people were buying the wrong book,” reporter David Benoit tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer.
Benoit revealed the case of mistaken identity in the Wall Street Journal — after he experienced it first-hand….
Now Waine’s book is selling well.
“Writing had always been a hobby for her,” Benoit says, but this year she says she sold over 30,000 copies of her book.
And she’s excited to see what happens when her next book comes out….
“Many readers who admit they bought the wrong book liked it anyway,” Benoit wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“One woman I talked to actually liked Miss Waines’ book better than Miss Hawkins’ book,” Benoit tells Wertheimer.
She made her book club, which had planned on reading the best-seller, pick up Girl on a Train instead.
I might just check that one out.
What stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread and have a great day.
The weather here has finally done me in. We set a record high of 82 and the humidity has been gruesome! Now, it’s turned chilly! I’ve got a flu like you wouldn’t believe so I’m going to just get us caught up on some of the headlines because they’re actually quite a few today. Hopefully, this will go away because the last two days have kept me in bed with hot tea and meds constantly coughing, sneezing and shivering.
Americans again name Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama the woman and man living anywhere in the world they admire most. Both win by wide margins over the next-closest finishers, Malala Yousafzai for women and Pope Francis and Donald Trump for men.
You may want to check out her history as a Civil Rights worker. It’s interesting and important.
One of the most interesting holiday surprises was the revelation by Amy Chozick in The New York Times about Hillary Rodham, Covert Operative.
Playing down her flat Chicago accent, she told the school’s guidance counselor that her husband had just taken a job in Dothan, that they were a churchgoing family and that they were looking for a school for their son. The future Mrs. Clinton, then a 24-year-old law student, was working for Marian Wright Edelman, the civil rights activist and prominent advocate for children. Mrs. Edelman had sent her to Alabama to help prove that the Nixon administration was not enforcing the legal ban on granting tax-exempt status to so-called segregation academies, the estimated 200 private academies that sprang up in the South to cater to white families after a 1969 Supreme Court decision forced public schools to integrate. Her mission was simple: Establish whether the Dothan school was discriminating based on race.
Make no mistake. Even in 1972, this took considerable guts. The segregated academies were the outward sign of the vicious backlash against the triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement that only would intensify over the following decade as the Republican party, and the conservative movement that would come to be its essential life-force, discovered that, in many important ways,the whole country was Southern. The backlash was even more virulent at the local level. If Undercover Hillz blew her cover, very bad things could have happened to her.
After filing a FOIA request, a Virginia Tech professor recently discovered Michigan state officials knew the city of Flint’s water supply was giving children lead poisoning while falsely assuring residents that the water was safe. Although the government had been aware of the increased levels of lead poisoning since July, they continued to lie to the public until a Flint pediatrician published a study in September that found lead exposure in children had doubled citywide and nearly tripled in high-risk areas.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty announced in a press conference Monday that the Cleveland police officers who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year will not face charges. Surveillance video captured officer Timothy Loehmann shooting Rice, who was carrying a toy gun, almost immediately after he and his partner, Frank Garmback, arrived at a public park. The officers believed the boy was armed with a real gun.
Ben Carson may be the next republican to bail on the presidential primary process. I’ve always felt that he was in it to get on the Right Wing Talk and book circuit, but that’s just one woman’s opinion.
Two days before Christmas, with his presidential campaign fading fast, Ben Carson sought to take control at his manse in the countryside west of Baltimore.
A video crew was in the front living room preparing to film a campaign ad. A photo shoot was being prepped in the basement. The Associated Press had come calling, and more members of the media would show up after The Washington Post had its turn. In a matter of hours, Carson’s children and grandchildren were expected to arrive for the holiday.
Amid all that commotion stood Carson, both completely surrounded and almost entirely alone — the sole staffer on hand was a financial adviser, and the two spoke only glancingly.
Unless something in his campaign changed fast, Carson was in danger of going the way of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain — fad candidates who wilted before a single vote had been cast. This was the day he had marked to stop the fade.
Hey, remember Scott Walker? That corn-fed, Kohls-shopping, union-busting, unintimidated governor of a blue state who had a real shot at next July’s nominating convention?
He’s probably sitting in his Madison, Wisconsin, office right now reading the same stories about Donald Trump that you are.
Walker was one of several casualties in the 2015 leg of the presidential-primary contest, a brutal stretch that saw candidates who were expected to make their mark gone from the race or gasping for air. As Trumpmentum and Clintoninevitability rage on, some contenders who looked like they’d fill a void in the field haven’t seen much success, while others haven’t lived up to their early, favorable reviews.
The charismatic basketball player Meadowlark Lemon has died. The Harlem Globetrotter’s were a big fixture in my childhood and he was my favorite. He was 83 years young.
George “Meadowlark” Lemon, the basketball star who entertained millions of fans around the world with his antics as a longtime member of the Harlem Globetrotters, died Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 83.
Lemon played 24 seasons and by his own estimate more than 16,000 games with the Globetrotters, the touring exhibition basketball team known for its slick ball-handling, practical jokes, red-white-and-blue uniforms and multiyear winning streaks against overmatched opponents.
He also was one of a handful of Globetrotters whose fame transcended sports, especially among children during the team’s heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Lemon was immortalized in a Harlem Globetrotters cartoon series and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” episodes of “Scooby Doo” and many national TV commercials.
Iraqi forces claimed victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Ramadi as clearing operations were under way to flush out the armed group’s remaining fighters in the key city.
“Yes, the city of Ramadi has been liberated,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said in a televised statement on Monday, a day after the army took control of the key government compound in Ramadi’s Al Huz neighbourhood.
“The Iraqi counterterrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex in Anbar,” Rasool added, saying the fighting will continue until the whole city is liberated.
Bet Texas doesn’t want to secede today. Horrible tornadoes have wrecked havoc on the state. Bet they’ll be happy to see FEMA for the New Year.
At least 19 people were killed in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama between Wednesday and Saturday in wicked weather that made the Christmas holiday hellish for many, according to The Associated Press.
Over the weekend, tornadoes in Texas claimed another 11 lives, and floods that washed over roadways and into homes led to 13 deaths in Missouri and Illinois.
At least 43 people have been killed in a five-day span. And the dangerous weather is not over yet.
I totally have to go crawl back into bed with my hot tea and kleenix box. So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I thought about a few things this Christmas…nothing like getting together with people you care about to make you think about things. I am so glad this fucking holiday is over.
The links today are varied…starting with several sent to me by Boston Boomer.
Something big is going on…Free Press? No more…of course this has been questionable for years but now there is a “journalist” in Connecticut:
A week ago, no one had ever heard of Edward Clarkin. Today he has inspired multiple parody Twitter accounts, prompted one journalist to quit his job after 22 years and has been the subject of intense speculation in elite media circles.
This is how Edward Clarkin went from an unknown to the center of the world of journalism.
Who Is Edward Clarkin?
Edward Clarkin holds himself out to be a reporter for the New Britain Herald, a small paper in Connecticut with a circulation of about 7500. Prior to this month, Clarkin’s only articles for the New Britain Herald were four effusive restaurant reviews published in 2011. “If A Taste of Poland is anything like Warsaw or Krakow, I’m buying an airplane ticket tomorrow,” Clarkin wrote.
Then, on December 1, Clarkin published a nearly 2,000 word article on the performance of business courts, which specialize in corporate issues. Oddly, the article not only covered Connecticut business courts but included ten paragraphs criticizing Elizabeth Gonzalez, a state judge in Nevada. Clarkin wrote that Gonzalez’s rulings “appear inconsistent and even contradictory” and her conduct “undermines the rationale for the creation of such courts in the first place.”
Is Edward Clarkin A Good Reporter?
It does not appear so.
Several of the sources quoted in his business courts article say they were never contacted by Clarkin or anyone from the New Britain Herald, according to the Hartford Courant.
The Courant also revealed that other passages in the piece were blatantly plagarized from other sources.
Is Edward Clarkin A Real Person?
All signs point to no.
There is talk that this is tied to Sheldon Adelson. You may remember…Adelson and his recent purchase of a Vegas newspaper….which was kept secret from the public as well as the paper’s editors and staff…he also paid way over the asking price for the newspaper. (Makes me think of Hearst and his empire of Newspapers.)
th a reporting staff that numbers in the single digits, the New Britain Herald still fills its pages seven days a week with city politics, police news, local sports and a variety of community topics from teen pregnancy to Christmas caroling.
Given its lean resources and hyperlocal focus, the Herald surprised some earlier this month by devoting an entire page to a lengthy exposition on business courts, including a 10-paragraph section criticizing the actions of a little-known judge three time zones away in Las Vegas.
That article, tucked on Page 12 of a Tuesday paper, is now shining an uncomfortable spotlight on the man who saved the Herald from extinction — publisher Michael Schroeder, who has a business relationship with Sheldon Adelson, a prominent casino operator who has clashed with the Las Vegas judge scrutinized in the Herald article.
Schroeder now finds himself caught up in a complex mystery at the intersection of politics, media and business — a mystery with a litany of unanswered questions, among them: Why would a local paper in New Britain devote so much space to dissecting the rulings of a county judge 2,288 miles away? And who is the mysterious “Edward Clarkin” whose name appears as the author of the Herald story?
Those questions have been swirling for days in journalistic circles, but they will not be answered by Schroeder. “I have no comment on our newsgathering, story selection or writers, as always,” Schroeder said in an email to The Courant.
Read the continuing story….
More on Adelson purchase of the paper:
On to other links.
Abolitionists saw it as an opportunity to “change hearts and show what was happening to enslaved people,” said Leslie Harris, an Emory University professor who has written extensively about the U.S. slave trade. “The connection between slaves and masters was an economic one. The fact remains that they were property that was vulnerable to the economic whims and needs of their owners.”
Even now, Thomson’s account, written under the pen name Q.K. Philander Doesticks, is chilling in its depiction of what happened at the Ten Broeck Race Course grandstand. The sale began on March 2 in a driving rain.
“The wind howled outside, and through the open side of the building the driving rain came pouring in; the bar down stairs ceased for a short time its brisk trade; the buyers lit fresh cigars, got ready their catalogues and pencils, and the first lot of human chattels was led up the stand,” Thomson wrote.
The constant rain and the tears of the slaves eventually led to the name, “the Weeping Time.”
In most cases the slaves were sold as families, including a mother and her 15-day-old baby. Extended families and whatever community they had on the Butler plantations were destroyed. The 436 people sold over those two days went to plantations throughout the South. There’s little trace of what became of them.
From that to this: Illuminating the History of West African Portrait Photography
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s In and Out of the Studio: Photographic Portraits from West Africa, which draws its 80 works solely from the Met’s collection, fleshes out a longer and more varied history of West African photo portraiture, including amateur and popular commercial practices that acted as precursors to the more acclaimed works of later decades.
In discussion with Hyperallergic, Dr. Giulia Paoletti, curator of In and Out of the Studio together with Yaëlle Biro, associate curator in the Met’s Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, offered insight into the research process:
Some of the best findings emerged as I was studying the Visual Resource Archive (VRA), which is part of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The VRA features an incredibly diverse collection — from fieldwork photographs to images of African art objects, from postcards to personal albums. Yet most of its holdings have not been fully digitized and are little known to the larger public. … While working within the little-known, yet large, VRA collection, we were able to make a very tight selection of eighty works — the majority of which had never been seen.
In and Out of the Studio is organized both chronologically and by theme. The exhibition’s earliest works hail from photography studios that served the most well-to-do citizens of local communities. Sitters commissioned portraits to capture their social standing, using dress, setting, pose, and accessories as socioeconomic indicators. A picture by George A. G. and Albert George Lutterodt, “Five Men” (c. 1880–85), presents a serious group of subjects against a studio backdrop. Two of the men do not look at the camera, appearing completely absorbed in perfecting their poses. The photo suggests that the goal here was the finished product, not a spontaneous give-and-take between sitter and camera. Many of the exhibition’s early photographs, whether taken in studios or by amateurs, demonstrate this priority of subject over instrument; the camera is used to capture an intimate verity, not to manipulate reality.
Unknown artist (Senegal), “Two Girls, Indoors” (c. 1915), gelatin silver print from glass negative, 2015, 2 x 3 in (5.7 x 7.6 cm), Visual Resource Archive, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas (click to enlarge)
These early works, from the 1800s and early 1900s, include studio portraits, shots by amateur photographers, postcards, and negatives. Despite the range of mediums, they come together to create an aesthetic and cultural history with more continuity than one might expect. “When we ‘rediscovered’ the Lutterodt’s original print in the archives, we could not have imagined that the author was the first of the many generations of photographers who had opened some of the earliest studios along the Gold Coast in the 1870s,” Dr. Paoletti commented.
Look at those beautiful images plus many more at the link.
Just a couple more links, it is a bit difficult. Dr. Zhivago is on TCM and I am very distracted.
And end it on a pretty picture.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been observing the Moon close-up for over five years, but all science aside, this picture is one heck of an achievement on its own. Looking just about as fake and alien as any other picture taken on the giant space rock that flies around our heads and stabilizes our planet, this is the Earth over the Moon’s horizon.
However, it’s not the Earth rising or setting over the horizon. It’s just the Earth sitting there, because that’s what it does over any given location on the Moon—except for where it’s not visible at all, ever. If you’ll remember, the same side of the Moon faces the Earth at all times. While the Moon appears at different locations in our sky, we stay at the same spot in its sky, where it gets a full view of us spinning through space.
Here’s the full image with side-by-side comparisons showing how it was brightened and then colored after it was taken…
Look at the link for the other images.
This is an open thread.