Thursday Reads

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Good Morning!!

Today is my birthday. I don’t feel much like celebrating, but I’m being lazy so I don’t know when this post will go up.

The wildfires in Tennessee are a real disaster. I’m hoping our beloved ANonOMouse and her family are still safe.

NBC News: Seven Deaths Confirmed as Smokies Wildfires Spread in Tennessee.

Officials were continuing to assess the damage Thursday from a ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than a week ago, killing at least seven people and gutting over 700 structures.

Drenching rain on Wednesday helped firefighters beat back the massive blaze, which still burned more than 15,650 acres and was about 10 percent contained, according to the Southern Area Incident Management Team, which assumed command of the fire.

Rescue operations have been slowed by mud and rockslides caused by the wet weather.

“The rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there,” the team said.

While large swaths of the national park were ravaged, the wind-whipped flames also reached the neighboring Appalachian tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Efforts to pinpoint the cause of deadly wildfires that engulfed two popular tourist towns outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions focused Thursday on their devastating path through East Tennessee, where officials said at least seven people were dead and hundreds of buildings have burned.

Several people remained missing Thursday, and at least 53 people have been treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known.

The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses throughout Sevier County — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres have burned in the most-visited national park in America.

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said that the first fires, spotted last week, were “likely to be human-caused.”

As people throughout Sevier County tried to return to their routines Thursday, some schools were still closed and access to Gatlinburg remained limited.

The story doesn’t give anymore information about the suspected causes of the fires.

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

In other non-political news, researchers have discovered that psilocybin could help people with anxiety and depression just like MyEtizolam. AP via TPM: Studies: ‘Magic Mushroom’ Psychedelic Drug May Ease Anxiety, Depression.

The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.

It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn).

But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.

Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say….

Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.

So people stop using drugs to recreational use, at least legally by the doctors, but the people still take all kind of drugs and supplements that help them with their body or gaining muscle or losing weight like plexus slim, which help them with all the above.

Griffiths said it’s not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.

Trumpworld News

Have you heard about the conversation #tRump had with the prime minster of Pakistan? Yes, the president-elect is still talkingto foreign leaders on his personal phone without benefit of intelligence briefings or background information from the State Department.

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Time Magazine: Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre.

There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”

The hilarity of his hyperbole aside, Trump’s intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.

Do you suppose #tRump knows that both Pakistan and India have nukes and they hate each others’ guts? Anyway, read the rest at the link. Here’s the full readout of the call from Pakistan’s press information site. The Trump people don’t bother to provide any information about the god-emperor’s phone calls.

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Yesterday the CIA head John Brennan tried to give #tRump some foreign policy suggestions via an interview with the BBC. The New York Times reports: C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal.

LONDON — The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear dealwould be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”

During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.

Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John O. Brennan as head of the C.I.A., wrote in mid-November on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” Mr. Brennan said in the BBC interview, which the broadcaster said was the first by a C.I.A. director with the British news media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”

Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming http://Loanovao needed to be skeptical about the Kremlin.

“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.

More at the link. #tRump supposedly reads the NYT; will he pay attention? Probably not.

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Some analysis from Vox: CIA Director John Brennan tells the BBC that Trump’s ideas are terrible.

On Wednesday morning, the BBC published excerpts from an interview with CIA Director John Brennan, the first time a serving head of America’s best-known spy agency has sat down with the British media, according to the BBC. Brennan’s comments are, unmistakably, a shot at Donald Trump. He calls Trump’s proposal to scrap the Iran deal “disastrous,” warns that “the overwhelming majority of CIA officers” oppose Trump’s call to bring back torture of suspected terrorists, and says the famously Putin-sympathetic Trump should “beware Russian promises.”

Brennan is stepping down from the CIA leadership on January 20, so he’ll never have to deal with President Trump directly. That means he’s free to do something as brazen as trash the incoming president on one of the world’s most-watched TV channels.

If you take a deeper look at Brennan’s comments, you start to realize that he’s expressing criticisms of Trump policies that are widely held in the foreign policy community.

 Take his attack on Trump’s approach to the Iran deal, which Brennan calls “the height of folly.” He warns that doing so would allow Iran to simply restart its nuclear program.

This, as my colleague Zeeshan Aleem explains, is the consensus among even anti-deal experts and policymakers. That’s because of the way the deal is structured: Iran has already gotten the sanctions relief it was promised, but has yet to fully comply with the terms of the deal that dismantle its nuclear program. If Trump were to scrap the deal on day one, Iran would have everything it wanted without having to give up too much. It would have billions of new dollars as well, and a free hand to build a nuke without pesky international inspectors.

Brennan’s position on Russia is another good example. His argument is that the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia have mostly failed to alter Moscow’s worst behavior — for example, its slaughtering of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and bombing of the moderate opposition looking to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Intelligence officials have been reduced to trying to communicate with a madman through the media. Please go over to Vox and read the rest.
Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

You probably heard that #tRump drove someone at the Office of Government Ethics Office to nervous breakdown yesterday. Slate: Federal Ethics Agency Spent the Afternoon Sarcastically Praising Donald Trump.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, as its name suggests, interprets and advises federal officials on the ethics laws and rules designed to help keep them honest. “When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” its mission statement admirably declares. Given what likely awaits the agency in less than two months’ time, it understandably had some, um, thoughts on Donald Trump’s vague, predawn Twitter announcement that he will be “leaving his great business” to focus on the presidency….

Remarkably, those exclamation-filled tweets from a normally staid Twitter account don’t appear to be the result of a hack. “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating he wants to be free of conflicts of interest,” agency spokesman Seth Jaffe said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. He added: “We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”

A few of the tweets (see the rest at Slate):

That’s it for me today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!

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50 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

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    • dakinikat says:

      Maybe we need literacy tests for white people.

      • contrask says:

        OMG – they need brain transplants. I don’t see any way to fix this problem, really. People will believe what they want to believe and there is always someone out there willing to con them.

    • joanelle says:

      HAPPY BIRTHDAY – be Happy on your birthday, BB – we love you and love should at least bring a smile to your face!!! Happy, Happy, Happy b’day!!!

    • gregoryp says:

      I hope they get everything that is coming to them. These folks seem to revel in the fact that they are ignorant, stupid and easily duped. That is America for you.

    • NW Luna says:

      Sadly, there ARE people like this. I know a couple who are related to me (fortunately I no longer see them).

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Sorry I missed your Birthday yesterday BB, I hope you found a way to relax and enjoy it.

      Thank you for remembering us. We’re fine here! We took a drive yesterday to visit friends who live near Gatlinburg. Fortunately a good soaking rain came into the area, which helped the process of stopping it and kept it from being an even more devastating event. Hopefully we will get more rain now that it’s beginning to cool off because we sure need it. We’ve had more fire outbreaks this year than I ever remember. So keep your fingers crossed for us.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Happy Birthday!! Love the paintings. Now to read the links!!!

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Bloomberg: Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts

    https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/tracking-trumps-web-of-conflicts/

  4. Delphyne49 says:

    Happy Birthday, BB! I hope you are enjoying your day.

    I enjoyed the Vox article on Brennan’s interview with the BBC. I’ll be reading the other links shortly.

    One thing I did read today was in The Boston Globe – it was so riveting and I think with the right team, it would be an equally riveting movie. The story involves finding a treatment that works on neuroblastoma in children. I’m posting the link, but will tell you that if you’re not a subscriber, you’ll be asked for your email address after Chapter 1 in order to read the other 4 chapters.

    https://apps.bostonglobe.com/metro/graphics/2016/12/will/

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Delphyne. I saw that piece in the Globe. I haven’t read it yet. I had an okay day.

      • contrask says:

        I neglected to say happy b-day earlier. I sure do enjoy your thoughtful posts. I hope you have many more years to contribute & soon have less depressing news to share

  5. janicen says:

    Happy Birthday, bb. Do something to celebrate even if it’s just to watch a movie and sip tea. You deserve something special.

    I don’t know if you or anyone else here subscribes to Netflix, but I highly, highly recommend “The Crown” on Netflix. Season one is currently available. There will be six, ten episode seasons and it is spectacular. Honestly, one of the best things I have ever seen on TV. It’s the story of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. As you can imagine, with six, 10 episode seasons, the producers are able to go into detail about things you never learned about in history class. The costumes, sets, and acting are so incredible that you feel as if you are watching history unfold. Really, really great. Game Of Thrones great.

    • Enheduanna says:

      I binge-watched this and agree – the story about Eliz. interference in Margaret’s marriage plans was much more nuanced than the crib note version. Quite good gossipy fun – and the sets look genuine; hard to believe they are sets?

      • janicen says:

        I thought the stuff about Churchill and the politics in Parliament were really interesting as well.

        • Enheduanna says:

          Oh gosh yes – John Lithgow as Churchill!

          Did you notice the girl portraying the young Elizabeth and what a ringer she is/was?

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I binged watched this last month. It was wonderful!

    • Riverbird says:

      The Crown helped me stay sane right after the election. I’m looking forward to season two.

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    Happy birthday BB.
    Xoxoxoxo

  7. Enheduanna says:

    Happy Birthday BB! I am hoping the year ahead is a huge improvement over this last one for all of us!

  8. Fannie says:

    BB, have a super great Birthday! Much love to you.

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    Happy Birthday, bb! From your fellow Baystater!

  10. purplefinn says:

    Thanks for posting on your birthday! I second the suggestions for doing something special for yourself.

  11. purplefinn says:

    Thanks for posting on your birthday! I second the suggestions to do something special for yourself. You deserve many treats!

  12. purplefinn says:

    Each day gets scarier. Key government officials communicate obliquely in order to possibly be heard. I’ve only had one nightmare filled sleep. I expect more.

  13. Sweet Sue says:

    Happy Birthday, BB.

  14. dakinikat says:

    Couple very weird things

    The Donald Trump campaign Thursday filed an objection to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s Michigan recount, calling the effort a “lawless, insulting request.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/trump-campaign-files-objection-to-jill-steins-lawless-insulting-michigan-recount/

    and the lead lawyer for the recount–Bob Fatrakis–said nineteen counties in Wisconsin are trying to refuse them access to their ballots!

  15. William says:

    Happy Birthday, Boston Boomer

    The margin in PA dropped from 70,000 to 46,000, apparently as the final Philadelphia vote tally was made. This means that right now, before recounts, the difference between a psychopathic fascist as President, rather than a brilliant and capable leader, is about 78,0i00 votes in three states, out of about 127 million votes. I wonder how many were blocked from the voter rolls i these three states, how many Sanders supporters spitefullyvoted for Johnson or Stein in those states. More than enough for Hillary to have won those states by a combined million votes.

    It is now pretty obvious that the Republican strategy is to stall out the game, a la Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000. File objections, lawsuits, refuse to give access to ballots. get right-wing judges to block hand counts, and figure that it will soon be December 13, that well known “safe harbor” nonsense, and then they win, sans a full recount. I think that there is a decent chance that with a full hand recount in WI and MI, Hillary would win those states. PA is harder because there are no paper recounts. I am almost certain that had there been a full adudit of the vote, just in those states, Hillary would win, because there are tens of thousands of voters in each state who were eligible to vote, who were forced to cast provisional ballots because of various voter suppression laws or “crosscheck” delberate acts or errors, and whose vote should count. And the only question left, is, will anyone, including the President, the Attorney General, state courts, do anything about this in time; or are the latter all corrupted, and the former incapable of the bravery necessary to step in and save the country?

    • NW Luna says:

      Only 78,000 short? The Cross-check (sic) system dropped out about 4 times that many voters in one state alone. Deities!

  16. bostonboomer says:

    This is the guy (White working class bigot?) who wanted to replace Nancy Pelosi. I’m very glad he lost.

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  17. Riverbird says:

    Happy Birthday, boston boomer!

  18. NW Luna says:

    Happy Birthday, BB! Yes, do something(s) relaxing.

  19. NW Luna says:

    Trump’s pick for health secretary could end Obamacare’s free birth control
    Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who like the president-elect has championed repealing Obamacare, would not have to wait for the overall law to be targeted by Congress because the free contraceptive measure exists due to a rule enacted by the Obama administration.

    http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/tom-price-could-end-acas-free-birth-control/

  20. NW Luna says:

    in reference to:

  21. Beata says:

    BB, sending best wishes, gratitude and love from Indiana to you on your birthday! Thank you for all the good work you do at Sky Dancing. You help me and so many others find the will to carry on.

  22. NW Luna says:

    Nine of the 10 counties in this state [WA] that have benefited the most from Obamacare also voted for Donald Trump. How much are we obligated to care, then, when tens of thousands of them get thrown off health coverage?

    ….the whole point of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare was to be a safety net, to catch people when they fell or to give them health stability while they worked their way up. Bonus: The program was paid for by a tax on the rich.

    Now the new plan — out of spite for annoying liberals I guess — is to start the year by cutting the tax on the rich, and slashing the safety net for the poor.

    Oh well, Adams and Yakima and newly red Grays Harbor County — you voted for Trumpism, so this must be OK with you, right? That one in five adults between 18 and 65 in your communities is about to be thrown off health coverage? This must be what H.L. Mencken was talking about when he defined democracy as “the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/counties-in-washington-that-rely-most-on-obamacare-voted-for-trump/