Okay, so the storm is not called “Levon” but “Leon.”
It’s just that I had substituted the name Leon in that Elton John song as it “played” in my head, all day long yesterday…
Uh, Good morning!
Find the latest on the weather system the weather channel is calling Leon:
This storm is kicking the South’s ass…But this is no laughing matter: State troopers headed to schools where students, teachers are… | www.ajc.com
Shortly before midnight, about 50 students were still aboard Atlanta Public School buses, a spokeswoman for the district said. In DeKalb County, at least 20 vehicles were involved in a pileup on U.S. 78 eastbound, past Hugh Howell Road. All lanes were blocked around 1 a.m. Wednesday.
These kids are stuck in buses, some are stuck overnight in schools: State troopers to help with security at schools where stranded kids are spending the night | AccessNorthGa
Gov. Nathan Deal says state troopers are being sent to schools where students are stranded because they could not make it home on clogged roads caused by Tuesday’s snowstorm.
The governor spoke at a news conference at he State Capitol late Tuesday night.
Deal also said that state and local officials will try to rescue those stranded along highways that are at a standstill. Normal 30-minute commutes have turned into hourslong odysseys for thousands.
A winter storm that would probably be no big deal in the North all but paralyzed the Deep South, bringing snow, ice and teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the teens in some places.
The winter storm has mostly moved into the Carolinas, but metro Atlanta traffic remained gridlocked at 4 a.m. Wednesday as Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour from hell stretched into hour 16.
Traffic was still bumper-to-bumper and barely moving on several Atlanta interstates, including on I-75 north of downtown, on I-20 west of downtown and on the top-end Perimeter.
Imagine those people stuck on the road without medicine…and running out of gas.
There were warnings…I don’t understand why the schools did not close or plan for a delayed opening. My kids almost did not make it home from the bus themselves, the snow hit so fast and hard. We could not believe how close the school board cut it this time. It really amazes me how many people got caught up in this mess.
In Atlanta, the gridlock was so bad, a baby girl was delivered alongside Interstate 285, said Capt. Steve Rose, a spokesman for Sandy Springs police in suburban north Atlanta. He said an officer made it to the mother and her husband in time to help with the delivery, which he described as “flawless.” There were no complications and the family was taken to a hospital.
That is something, eh?
Yesterday was the SOTU: Full text: State of the Union | Al Jazeera America
President Obama’s 2014 address was his fifth in office. Read the entire transcript here, all 6,777 words
What does it mean if I did not watch the speech live, nor did I watch a taped version, I haven’t read any commentary or summaries, and the thought of reading all those 6,777 words makes me want to throw up everything I ate this evening. Even the possibility of nodding off during the speech was nothing to look forward to…
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits among the other justices during President Obama’s address. Win McNamee, Getty Images
• Did Justice Ginsberg fall asleep? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, was trending during Obama’s speech, with viewers speculating that she had fallen asleep, or at least was in full head-bob mode. We may never know for sure if it was a slump or a nap.
It would not be the first time she nodded off…But WTF is this all about?
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., share a sign as they take their seats for the president’s speech. Charles Dharapak, AP
You know, that is pretty close to the sign for vagina (when I took ASL in college…from what I remember) could it be code for an anti-woman PLUB agenda? Or is it some little “I heart pussy” thing? Perhaps they were making reference to this:
To whet your State of the Union pallate, I give you: “The State of the Uterus.”
The State of the Uterus is a fun new video – it literally just went live – about a serious issue, women’s rights in America.
Here’s a portion of their press release:
We all know the State of the Union is strong, but what about the State of the Uterus? On this most ceremonial of days in the nation’s capital, a uterus is taking up that question and will deliver a live address moments after President Obama’s Speech and the Republican Party responds.
“Madam Uterus” (UTOUS) for so she shall be addressed — will talk at length about the state of the uterus, and the vagina, in a country where state legislatures have variously deemed that women are pregnant before they are pregnant, have magical powers to deactivate rape sperm, and must be forced to carry stillborn babies to term.
“The state of our uterus is in the hands of so many,” Madam Uterus will say, according to the text of her prepared remarks. “As the old saying goes, behind every successful uterus is a man calling her a whore while cutting her pay.”
So here are a few links on the SOTU speech:
After the speech there was this: Rep. Grimm Threatens NY1 Reporter Following State of the Union – NY1
Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm physically threatened NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto at the conclusion of an interview in the Capitol Rotunda following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
Grimm’s threats came at the end of a brief interview in which he discussed the president’s speech, calling the address “divisive.”
Scotto then tried to ask the congressman about the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising:
Grimm told the reporter:
Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony.”
Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”
Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”
Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”
Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
Hmmm…taking some pointers from Christie? Or did he watch that movie A Few Good Men? Or perhaps he was listening Divine on his iPod during the speech: You Think You’re A Man Lyrics – Divine
You will notice in the video…there are a lot of boys being tossed over balconies.
Digby had this nugget of news at her site: Hullabaloo
Iceland’s big problem: bringing 4% unemployment down to 2%
At one time there was a big debate about whether or not Iceland came out on top during our current depression, largely due to it’s hard core treatment of its banks. It was always pretty obvious that they made the smarter decision. It looks even more obvious today:
Iceland let its banks fail in 2008 because they proved too big to save.
Now, the island is finding crisis-management decisions made half a decade ago have put it on a trajectory that’s turned 2 percent unemployment into a realistic goal.
While the euro area grapples with record joblessness, led by more than 25 percent in Greece and Spain, only about 4 percent of Iceland’s labor force is without work. Prime MinisterSigmundur D. Gunnlaugsson says even that’s too high.
“Politicians always have something to worry about,” the 38-year-old said in an interview last week. “We’d like to see unemployment going from where it’s now — around 4 percent — to under 2 percent, which may sound strange to most other western countries, but Icelanders aren’t accustomed to unemployment.”
It doesn’t sound strange to me, it sounds fucking awesome!
The island’s sudden economic meltdown in October 2008 made international headlines as a debt-fueled banking boom ended in a matter of weeks when funding markets froze. Policy makers overseeing the $14 billion economy refused to back the banks, which subsequently defaulted on $85 billion. The government’s decision to protect state finances left it with the means to continue social support programs that shielded Icelanders from penury during the worst financial crisis in six decades.
We, on the other hand are making nearly 7% official unemployment (along with many millions not even being counted) the new normal. And we’re slashing our meager safety net, even food assistance. But our megabanks are doing very well which is what matters.
Geez, I really want to move to Iceland…to hell with this country’s right-wing assholes who have taken over everything. I mean, how can we even be at the point where the dicks are actually debating this shit…
Submitted without comment other than to notice how several of the candidates refer to evolution in schools as being part of a “politically correct” conspiracy.
From left: Sen. Dan Patrick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson
Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Candidates Agree: More Religion Needed in Science Class
Oh…can someone get me outta here? I can’t take it anymore!
This is all I can bring myself to write, y’all go ahead and give it up in the comments below.
Enjoy your day…
Well, there has been an arrest made involving Liberty Reserve. I don’t know the complete story about this latest money scheme, but it is a big one.
U.S. prosecutors have filed an indictment against the operators of digital currency exchange Liberty Reserve, accusing the Costa Rica-based company of helping criminals around the world launder more than $6 billion in illicit funds linked to everything from child pornography to software for hacking into banks.
The indictment unsealed on Tuesday said Liberty Reserve had more than a million users worldwide, including at least 200,000 in the United States, and virtually all of its business was related to suspected criminal activity.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the case perhaps “the largest international money laundering case ever brought by the United States.”
“Liberty Reserve has emerged as one of the principal means by which cyber-criminals around the world distribute, store and launder the proceeds of their illegal activity,” according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
There was another train crash today, what is that saying…they always comes in threes?
Fifteen freight train cars derailed in an industrial area of Maryland this afternoon causing an explosion, the collapse of several buildings and leaving one person in serious condition, according to authorities.
The CSX train derailed in the White Marsh area around 2 p.m., according to officials.
“Several buildings collapsed at the site of the train derailment,” Baltimore County public safety information specialist Louise Feher told ABCNews.com.
An overturned garbage truck could be seen at the scene and the driver was the injured person, according to the Baltimore County Police and Fire Department. The truck driver was removed from the truck and taken to a hospital. The driver is in serious but stable conditions, authorities said.
The train and truck collided, but officials have not yet provided details on the collision or whether the collision caused the derailment.
Down in Florida today, things are revving up for the George Zimmerman trial which starts in two weeks. I have a few links for you on the latest ruling from Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson:
At the start of George Zimmerman‘s murder trial, which begins in two weeks, expect Trayvon Martin to be portrayed as an innocent teenager, an unarmed 17-year-old who was killed while walking home in the rain.
By the time it concludes, however, jurors may have a more menacing view of him.
In rat-a-tat fashion, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson buzzed through a series of pretrial motions on Tuesday, laying the groundwork for what jurors will hear during the second-degree murder trial, expected to be one of the most watched this year.
One of the judge’s clearest rulings: Defense attorneys will not get more time to prepare. Jury selection will begin June 10, when 500 potential jurors are scheduled walk through the courthouse doors.
And, in general, she banned defense attorneys from introducing reputation-damaging evidence about Trayvon — but she left lots of wiggle room.
If defense attorneys can convince her during the course of the trial that it’s relevant, she may allow them to put on evidence showing that at the time of his death, Trayvon had marijuana in his system; that he had discipline problems at school; and that he had a history of fighting.
After Tuesday’s two-hour hearing, defense attorney Mark O’Mara predicted he would be able to show their relevance.
“I’m hopeful I’ll be able to lay a foundation to get it in,” he said.
Specifically, he was referring to text messages found on Trayvon’s cell phone, which indicate, among other things, that the Miami Gardens teenager was involved in competitive fighting.
Mara said he was happy with the judge’s decision. I bet he was…This is from the local newspaper…I wonder what sort of jury pool this will leave the prosecution to pick from.
Also happy with the judge’s rulings was Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon’s family, who interpreted them as outright bans.
The judge did issue some of those: Jurors will not hear about Trayvon’s prior marijuana use nor will they see a photo of him wearing a set of gold teeth.
Those rulings came because last week, defense attorneys released a glut of evidence, including photos from Trayvon’s cell phone that showed potted marijuana plants, a semiautomatic handgun and text messages revealing discipline problems at school and that his mother had asked him to move out.
Crump on Tuesday described that as defense attorneys “polluting the jury pool.”
“Trayvon Martin did not have a gun,” Crump said. “Trayvon Martin did not get out of his car and chase anyone. Trayvon Martin did not shoot and kill anyone.”
A few more takes on the Trayvon Martin Case:
At a hearing on Tuesday in a Seminole County court, Circuit Judge Debra Steinberg Nelson denied a string of defense motions concerning evidence that was intended to portray Mr. Martin as a troubled teenager with a propensity for fighting and an interest in guns. Prosecutors argued that such evidence had nothing to do with Mr. Martin’s death.
Mark O’Mara, Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, argued that Mr. Martin’s drug use could have made him aggressive and paranoid, which the defense said might have prompted him to attack Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who is in his late 20s.
“All of that fits in squarely to what the defense is going to present: that George Zimmerman was put in the position that he had to act in self-defense,” Mr. O’Mara, said. “How could you keep us from arguing that?”
Judge Nelson replied: “The rules of evidence keep you from doing it.”
In recent weeks, the actions of Mark O’Mara, the lawyer for Zimmerman, have clearly been geared toward developing a public relations campaign to portray the young Trayvon as negatively as possible. Zimmerman’s lawyer has been working overtime to get into the public consciousness images of Trayvon as a discipline problem at school and elsewhere, as someone prone toward violence and someone who was, quite simply, a menace.
O’Mara is an experienced lawyer who surely knew that none of the information and photos he was peddling would be admissible in his opening arguments in court. However, he engaged in a clever effort to prejudice any potential jurors. It was his calculation that the continued flow of negative information about Trayvon couldn’t help but seep into the minds of the potential jury and help create doubt upon the character of the teenager.
In many ways, the events of the last weeks, coupled with the ruling Tuesday by Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson, have set the stage for the epic trial that is to begin June 10 in Sanford, Florida, the very city where the teenage Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman in a dark gated community. Indeed, it signals the unofficial beginning of the trial.
It represents a battle between the two sides of what images of the two central figures in the case will prevail. Zimmerman’s attorney is seeking to make Trayvon Martin out to be some ne’er-do-well thug so sinister that a jury could readily understand why a neighborhood watch volunteer like Zimmerman might reasonably shoot and kill him.
To that end, O’Mara and the defense team have worked feverishly — even into the three-day Memorial Day weekend — to release photos of Trayvon with gold teeth, of information regarding the teenager’s marijuana use as well as revelations of him fighting or being suspended from his high school.
Well, they have done a good job of getting that negative image of Martin out there. Like I said up top, Mara is doing this for one thing only…speaking of which, look at this next link: Sanford residents discuss impact of George Zimmerman case | Bay News 9
The upcoming George Zimmerman Trial, and everything that has led up to it, has changed the city of Sanford forever.
With the trial just days away, a panel of six Sanford residents from several different backgrounds talked about how they’ve been affected by it.
Go and see what this “panel” of residents had to say.
Oh and one more Trayvon link: Attempts blocked to discredit Trayvon Martin – Salon.com
I can already anticipate the “discussion” this trial will bring about within the blogosphere…oof!
Finally, this little funny story.
Last night while TCM was on my TV, and I was about doing laundry, ironing shirts and other things I caught just a mention of one word in a trailer of a movie that TCM is showing later on this week. Well, when I heard this one word I had to stop all I was doing and rush to the TV to see what film it was so that I could schedule the DVR to record it. The trailer is below, go ahead and give it a look-see and I bet you will be able to guess which part made my ears perk up take notice!
Y’all have a wonderful evening, this is an open thread.
Just some links to get us started this morning, I am sure that there will be more information about the mass murders in Newtown, Connecticut. Check the comment section below for updates.
I have to share these two links with you however, first is this one…from Susie Madrak…thank you for posting this link Susie! We need to talk about mental illness.
This is also very sad. And infuriating. Hey, let’s cut some more mental health funding!
Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
Please read that post and share it!
Then there is this shit: Westboro Baptist Church Members Say They Will Protest In Sandy Hook
It is 3:33am, and I lay in bed…unable to breathe. I thought if I added these two stories to my post I could somehow fall asleep. I am sick with all this, it is horrifying…. Please…make it stop.
Now for some stories that caught my eye this past week.
Glenn Greenwald looks at HSBC, too big to jail, is the new poster child for US two-tiered justice system
The US is the world’s largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth, both in absolute numbers and proportionally. It imprisons people for longer periods of time, more mercilessly, and for more trivial transgressions than any nation in the west. This sprawling penal state has been constructed over decades, by both political parties, and it punishes the poor and racial minorities at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates.Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said taking away HSBC’s US banking licence could have cost thousands of jobs. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP
But not everyone is subjected to that system of penal harshness. It all changes radically when the nation’s most powerful actors are caught breaking the law. With few exceptions, they are gifted not merely with leniency, but full-scale immunity from criminal punishment. Thus have the most egregious crimes of the last decade been fully shielded from prosecution when committed by those with the greatest political and economic power: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, spying on Americans’ communications without the warrants required by criminal law by government agencies and the telecom industry, an aggressive war launched on false pretenses, and massive, systemic financial fraud in the banking and credit industry that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.
This is ridiculous, more at the link, in fact Greenwald has updated the post since it originally was published on 12/12/12.
From ProPublica, a report on the US water supply. Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply
Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation’s drinking water.
In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.
EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.
“You are sacrificing these aquifers,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. “By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”
As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.
That is just the beginning, go read the rest when you have time.
Okay, we’ve had links to outrages regarding the Fed and DoJ, and the EPA. Now on to the latest news about Obamacare…and Walmart. Walmart Workers At Risk In States Rejecting Obamacare Medicaid Expansion
If state governors follow through on plans to oppose the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, one substantial group of low-wage workers appears vulnerable to going without medical coverage: people who work at Walmart.
The world’s largest retailer recently outlined a new policy that will exclude from health coverage newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, as The Huffington Post reported this month. Experts described that move as an attempt by Walmart to shift the burden of providing health coverage to the government — specifically, to Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.
Isn’t it wonderful? /snark.
I’ve got another article to share with you, this time it is on various Federal District Courts: Help Wanted On The Federal Bench – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast
Robert Kuttner points out that there “are now more than 100 vacancies on the federal bench, out of some 856 federal district and appellate judges, far more than on the day Obama took office”
Y’all know what this means. Why are there so many vacancies left open by the Obama Administration?
The rest of today’s links are listed below…
Finally, later in the week, TCM will be showing one of the best movies of film noir, Double Indemnity staring Babara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, and directed by Billy Wilder. So in connection to this film, check out the two videos below. From the Carol Burnette Show:
See you all in the comments later on today.
After spending last night watching Lost in America...it made me think about Skippy, the manager at the Der Wienerschnitzel and those frozen fries, you know, the importance of details that make you great at your job. (If you forgot the scene I am talking about, the manager of the hot dog joint tells Albert Brooks just how wonderful his wife, Julie Hagerty, is…because of her attention to details, she noticed he had served “frozen” fries…with bits of ice inside of them.)
I wonder if Bank of America’s Bryan Moynihan, had such an attention to detail, but according to this article by Matt Taibbi, it looks like attention to detail is obviously not essential to a CEO…snark. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan Apparently Can’t Remember Anything | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
Thank God for Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. If you’re a court junkie, or have the misfortune (as some of us poor reporters do) of being forced professionally to spend a lot of time reading legal documents, the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.
In this long-awaited interrogation – Bank of America has been fighting to keep Moynihan from being deposed in this case for some time – Moynihan does a full Star Trek special, boldly going where no deponent has ever gone before, breaking out the “I don’t recall” line more often and perhaps more ridiculously than was previously thought possible. Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he’ll have to get back to you.
Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo on Tuesday, prompting the Islamist leader to leave the building, presidency sources said.
Officers fired teargas at up to 10,000 demonstrators angered by Mursi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution on December 15. Some broke through police lines around his palace and protested next to the perimeter wall.
The crowds had gathered nearby in what organizers had dubbed “last warning” protests against Mursi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the demonstrators chanted.
“The president left the palace,” a presidential source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. A security source at the presidency also said the president had departed.
Building Lego towers is a competitive business – this one in Prague, at 32.5m, may be the tallest to date
It’s not just children who like to build towers with Lego – the internet is alive with discussion on how many Lego bricks, stacked one on top of the other, it would take to destroy the bottom brick. So what’s the answer?
There has been a burning debate on the social news website Reddit.
It’s a trivial question you might think, but one the Open University’s engineering department has – at the request of the BBC’s More or Less programme – fired up its labs to try to answer.
“It’s an exciting thing to do because it’s an entirely new question and new questions are always interesting,” says Dr Ian Johnston, an applied mathematician and lecturer in engineering.
The average maximum force the bricks can stand is 4,240N. That’s equivalent to a mass of 432kg (950lbs). If you divide that by the mass of a single brick, which is 1.152g, then you get the grand total of bricks a single piece of Lego could support: 375,000.
So, 375,000 bricks towering 3.5km (2.17 miles) high is what it would take to break a Lego brick.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a “magnetic highway” at the edge of the solar system, a surprising discovery 35 years after its launch, the experts behind the pioneering craft said Monday.
Earlier this year a surge in a key indicator fueled hopes that the craft was nearing the so-called heliopause, which marks the boundary between our solar system and outer space.
But instead of slipping away from the bubble of charged particles the Sun blows around itself, Voyager encountered something completely unexpected.
This is amazing…think about how far Voyager has gone.
The craft’s daily radio reports sent back evidence that the Sun’s magnetic field lines was connected to interstellar magnetic fields. Lower-energy charged particles were zooming out and higher-energy particles from outside were streaming in.
They called it a magnetic highway because charged particles outside this region bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the bubble, or heliosphere.
“Although Voyager 1 still is inside the Sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway,” said Edward Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
We got ourselves all excited for NASA’s Mars press conference today, even though we already knew it wasn’t about life on the red planet, but what we should have been paying attention to was happening nearly 11.5 billion miles away in the heliosphere. The Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a new region of our solar system. What’s even more exciting is that NASA scientists believe this region is the final barrier between Voyager and interstellar space. That’s so much more impressive than chlorine on Mars.
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is now so far out into space that light from the Sun takes over 34 hours to reach it. NASA debated whether this new region should still be considered part of our solar system, but project scientist Edward Stone makes the call by saying, “Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway.”
The scientists believe that Voyager will pass out of the solar system within the next two months or so. I’ve got one more space link for you this morning, it is about our Galaxy the Milky Way, New estimate suggests Milky Way mass of 1.6 trillion suns
Panorama of Milky Way from the inside: a mosaic of multiple shots on large-format film, comprising all 360 degrees of the galaxy from our vantage point. More about this image here. Image Credit: Digital Sky LLC via Wikimedia Commons
Our home galaxy the Milky Way is thought to be approximately 100,000 light-years wide and about 1,000 light-years thick. You often hear the estimate that the mass of our galaxy is equal to several billion suns, but some estimates have ranged up to twice that high, or even higher. Now some astronomers are suggesting a mass for the Milky Way of 1.6 trillion suns. The estimate isn’t just for stars but also includes the mass of our Milky Way’s invisible dark halo. It’s based on the first-ever measurement of the proper motion, or sideways motion along our line of sight, of a small galaxy satellite galaxy to our Milky Way. Ken Croswell reported on the role of this small galaxy – called Leo I – yesterday (December 3, 2012) in Scientific American.
There is a lot of information in that article, be sure to go and read the whole thing.
The rest of today’s post will be in link dump fashion…
An Amazing New Use for Ecstasy- Helping women deal with PTSD after rape.
Big Pharma Company Mocked Patients Who Got “Jawbone Death” from Drug: “Ma Toot Hurts So Bad” – Merck couldn’t care less about the patients…as long as they could make more money.
Noam Chomsky: What the American Media Won’t Tell You About Israel –Decades of hell in Gaza.
New research shows corrosion may accelerate failures at Fukushima Daiichi- Great…and guess what? There is nothing that can be done about it.
Be sure you read these couple of links on the NFL murder suicide this past weekend:
Regarding privacy in America…Laptop seizures by US government highlight 9/11-era climate of fear | Glenn Greenwald
And lastly, a bit of history…. Disability history month: Was Tamerlane disabled?
Tamerlane – derived from his nickname Timur the Lame – rose from obscurity to become a 14th Century conqueror of nations, who piled high the skulls of his enemies. It was quite a feat at a time when physical prowess was prized, writes Justin Marozzi.
Think of the greatest conquerors of all time and chances are you’ll quickly list Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. It is rather less likely, unless you come from Central Asia or the Muslim world more widely, that you’d spare a thought for Tamerlane.
Yet in many ways this Tartar warlord, born near Samarkand in 1336 in what is now Uzbekistan, outshone both the Macedonian king and the Mongol warlord.
Lots of links, I know…but it is a busy time of the year, and if you can’t take it all in one shot…come back during the day when you have the time. And be sure to share the things you are reading about today…
My internet is running so slooooooow tonight. In fact, I could not even get the comic pages to load properly. So because of these technical problems, the post is going to be very short.
The first cartoon is funny, but I think the color is a bit off. Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Boehner Ball
He needs to be orange…
If that IQ cartoon is too small, click the link up top to see the larger image.
What is on the GOP Christmas list?
For those of us who love hockey, this next cartoon is perfect. Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Wonderful Life
This next one is for Dakinikat: Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Illegal Department
And the last cartoon for you…Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Egypt President Morsi
Alright, now for something real funny, ‘Feel My Pudgy Hands Now!’… And Other Incredible Lines From Lindsay Lohan’s Awful Liz & Dick Lifetime Movie
Did you miss Sunday night’s premiere of Lifetime’s maudlin movie Liz & Dick? The Elizabeth Taylor biopic starring Lindsay Lohan created something of a Twitter frenzy with its general horribleness… and unintentional comedy.
Most reviews of the movie boiled down to one concrete point: “Liz & Dick is the best comedy of the year!” And that’s because the acting and the dialogue were, shall we say… so awful it’s good.
A la Tommy Wiseau‘s much-loved stinkerThe Room, this Lohan debacle contained an endless stream of terrifically terrible one-liners.
Luckily, for comedy’s sake, Vultureput together a two-minute compilation of the biggest doozies of the night.
I missed the show, but from the video it looks like it was a laugh riot. Go to that link and watch it…but don’t do it while you are eating or drinking.
This is an open thread, have a wonderful evening!
I have a couple of things to bring you tonight, one of them is on an old topic…that I never paid attention to before. But, my very dear friend was asking me about it, and of course I wanted to get the right information. The rest of my highlights are on the BOA mortgage settlements…but first this.
As you all know, the death of Savita Halappanavar hit me hard. I took it very personal because my situation was similar, only my fetus was not in the process of a miscarriage, it was an ectopic that was just at the opening of my fallopian tube at the uterus. So there is actually no way I could have gotten my medically necessary abortion if I was in Ireland.
I sent the Irish Embassy Foreign Affairs a message about my disgust at the death of a woman which could have been prevented. They sent me an email back…
Dear JJ Lopez Minkoff
Your e-mail below refers.
The Irish Government has extended its sympathies to the family of Ms. Savita Halappanavar on their loss.
Two investigations are currently underway in order to establish the facts in relation to this case and to identify the factors that contributed to this tragic death. In addition, a Coroner’s Inquest will take place into the matter.
The Minister for Health and Children has indicated that the outcome of the investigation reports must be awaited before commenting further. The investigation teams will work closely with Ms. Halappanavar’s family at all times and keep them fully informed of the terms of reference of the investigations.
Press & Information Officer
Embassy of Ireland
From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 14 November 2012 15:23
To: #WASHINGTON EM External Mail
Subject: FeedbackYour name:: JJ Lopez Minkoff
Your email address:: email@example.com
Query/Comment:: It is appalling that in this modern era a woman will die because of the religious beliefs of others…Savita Halappanavar should be alive today. Instead she suffered pain and torture at the hands of your country’s archaic anti-abortion laws and an obvious lack of humanity by hospital doctors and staff. Shame on them.
Recent press about the death of Savita Halappanavar, admitted to a hospital in Ireland with medical complications in a 17-week pregnancy, is a grim reminder about the impact of abortion restrictions on women’s lives.
In Ireland, abortion is legal only to save a woman’s life. In the last two years in the United States, nine states have passed laws banning abortion after 20 weeks (in Arizona abortion is banned after 18 weeks) except to save a woman’s life. But as the death of Ms. Halappanavar so poignantly illustrates, “risk to a woman’s life” in emergency situations is extremely difficult to assess.
In the video, an alleged Obama supporter screams about her “Obama phone” at a rally in Ohio. She tells a reporter, “Keep Obama in president, you know! He gave us a phone, he’s gonna do more.”
The video made news this week as taxpayers grow increasingly uncomfortable with the so-called “47%” – those folks who supposedly rely on the government for entitlements. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney described those folks as:
[D]ependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it
She went on to shriek, “Everybody in Cleveland, low minorities, got Obama phones…”
It was a great sound byte. But it’s deeply flawed. The “Obama phone” program she’s touting doesn’t give out free phones to minorities. And it wasn’t started by President Obama. And this rumor isn’t new.
Of course it isn’t true…
… reported months ago, there is a law in place to help low-income customers have access to basic telephone service. It’s divided into two programs: Link-Up America and Lifeline.
Link-Up assists consumers with the installation costs of phone service. The program pays up to $30 of the cost of installation and up to $200 in the form of a one year, interest-free loan for additional installation costs.
Lifeline provides discounts on basic monthly service at a primary residence for qualified telephone customers. These discounts can be up to $10.00 per month, or more for certain Native Americans. Generally, to qualify, your income must be at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines (these vary by location and size of family but for comparison, rings in at $22,350 for a family of four in the lower 48).
In some instances, coverage may include discounts for cell phone service instead of land lines at primary residences because realistically, cell phone service is less expensive in some areas than traditional service. Eligibility and type of program may vary from state to state – and this is why there is a flurry of confusion about the program being a product of the Obama administration. In Florida, for example, cell phone service was added to the existing program – in 2008, the year that Obama was elected to office. The conclusion from many folks was that it was a new federal program. It was not. It was an expansion of the existing program and implemented on a state by state basis.
This program started back in 1996…
The federal program wasn’t started by President Obama. It dates back to 1996, as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Act did a number of things, including increasing internet access to doctors and patients in rural hospitals (for consults with specialists); subsidizing internet and phone coverage for schools and libraries and providing free or subsidized coverage for families who can’t afford it so that they have links to emergency and government services. The Act was not taxpayer funded… exactly. Taxpayers do pay for coverage but not via federal income taxes. Instead, the Act “mandated the creation of the universal service fund (USF) into which all telecommunications providers are required to contribute a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues.” So that little fee on your phone bill labeled USF? That’s what you’re paying for.
There is more detail here: Obama Phone: Urban Legend or Real?
Notice that earlier we said Link-Up helps fund “installation.” What installation does a cell phone have? None. So why is installation part of Link-Up, which is under the Lifeline program umbrella? Because, the whole thing began back in 1996 when the Federal Communications Commission authorized the programs for landline phones. At that time it provided discounts on landline phones only, for obvious reasons.
To this day the government provides discounts on landline phones for financially disadvantaged people in the United States and U.S. territories. The Link-Up portion helps with the installation and the Lifeline Assistance part helps with the monthly bills, to the tune of roughly ten dollars a month.
So, the subsidization of phones began under President Clinton, and has continued under Presidents Bush and Obama.
Over that time, the usage of cell phones rose and the costs came down. Assuming one believes in the Lifeline program in the first place, and remembering that the FCC has mandated the program, it only makes sense to expand the phone assistance program to include cell phones. So, in 2008 the first application of this program for mobile phones began when a company called Tracfone started their Safelink Wireless service in Tennessee.
Aha, some say, that’s the same year Obama was elected! Well, that’s true. But the service in Tennessee was launched three months prior to Obama being elected. And that means the discussion and approval of the extension of the program occurred under President Bush’s watch.
The Bush Phone, anyone?
As the Forbes article points out, there is legislation proposed to stop the Lifeline phone program, brought forward by Republican congress members, none of which are from Ohio.
On now to the mortgage stuff. Two items of interest, first Mortgage refinancing bill on hold in Senate
The Senate is postponing work on a mortgage refinancing bill that Democrats argue would help millions of homeowners and accelerate the economic recovery until after they return from the Thanksgiving holiday.
The measure, which was expected to be one of the first votes to take place when the upper chamber returns from its recess, is getting pushed off while a sportsmen’s bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is completed this week.
There is still the possibility that the mortgage bill, which has been touted by the Obama administration as an easy avenue to help struggling homeowners, could come up next month when Congress tilts its agenda toward averting a drop off the fiscal cliff.
I hope that this bill, if it does pass has some way to hold the banks accountable for the amount of modifications/refinances they do CLOSE, not just mod applications they take.
Speaking of which, the basturds at Bank of America have sent out alerts about the class action lawsuit they settled over the summer. Yes, we got one…and I can only hope my parents will get some sort of relief for the hell BOA put them through.
This one offers a bit of vindication. I cannot tell you how much grief I got from “official sources” over the clear reality that banks would be able to pay off their penalties in the foreclosure fraud settlement with investor money. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan flat-out said it, and then had to backtrack and obfuscate. But it was clearly set up by the terms of the settlement. Banks would get credit under the settlement for modifying loans in private label mortgage backed securities, which means the investors take the hit.
This became more clear in Bank of America’s side deal, where they would reduce their penalty through modifying loans they don’t own:
The expanded program could allow Bank of America to avoid paying $350 million in penalties tied to the foreclosure settlement and half of a separate $1 billion penalty related to a settlement of false claims filed on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, if the bank meets certain targets. Many of the write-downs will be made on loans originated by Countrywide Financial Corp., which Bank of America acquired in 2008, and then packaged into securities. BofA will also reduce balances on loans it owns […]
Some fund managers feel it is unfair for banks, which serviced mortgages on behalf of investors, to use those same loans to meet their obligations under the settlement. “The fact that a servicer has done a poor job has already impacted borrowers and our investors,” said BlackRock Managing Director Randy Robertson, who declined to speak specifically about the Bank of America agreement. “To ask investors to pay for banks’ fines in any form seems inappropriate and incorrect—we have very serious issues with that.”
BofA made a settlement deal with its own investors for $8.5 billion (one that’s still tied up in court), that they claim makes those loans eligible for write-downs without even having to get investor consent on a case-by-case basis. It’s probable that these write-offs could be beneficial to the investor, or NPV-positive, to use the technical term. But they’re still paying for BofA’s misconduct.
Have I said how much I hate these BOA ratfukkerz!
BofA started this process back in May by mailing letters to people with loans that they “owned or serviced.” In other words, they would reduce balances on loans they didn’t own, and get credit under the settlement. Sure enough, as American Banker reports today, writing about BofA’s compliance with the settlement:
In a surprising revelation, the Charlotte, N.C., lender also said that more than half of the nearly $5 billion in principal reductions will be paid for by investors, not the bank itself. That matters little to delinquent borrowers who saw their monthly payments reduced, but it is sure to anger investors who have argued that they should not have to be punished for banks’ mistakes.
Whether B of A’s report is indicative of progress other banks are making in complying with the landmark settlement won’t be known until Joseph A. Smith, the settlement’s monitor, issues his own progress report on Monday.
It’s actually not surprising. BofA has been planning this for months. All of the indications in their side deal showed they would get off the hook for billions in principal reductions by laying the cost off on investors.
Dayen feels “vindicated” in his prediction of just this scenario, you can read more at the link. Personally I feel so disgusted with these bankster crooks, that goes for Obama too, for letting them get away with this shit.
Two more items, quick questions…am I the only one who is disturbed by the use of Twitter to announce Israel’s attack on Gaza?
The IDF’s Twitter account is not without its dissenters:
But apparently, the better translation is “pillar of cloud” or “pillar of smoke”. And there’s this of course, put out by the IDF:
And they posted a video of that assassination, which we embedded here. I think Israel has a right to self-defense against the rockets being randomly fired toward their civilian population. But I do not recognize the Western concepts of just war and self-defense in these macho posturings about war. There is a relish about the use of disproportionate technology and force that I suppose tells us something about what living under siege can do to the psyches of human beings. The dehumanization of the enemy is also helped in part by distant electronic and video monitoring and broadcasting of deaths on the ground, as if this were a video game. It makes me think again about the question of the moral use of drone warfare.
And it’s hard to disagree with this tweeter:
I believe that Youtube has taken the IDF video down…I really do not want to get into a discussion about the timing and events that lead up to this attack, however, the use of twitter and the PR #hashtag branding of this war makes me sick.
One last link for you, and I can’t wait to see this on Fox and Friends, come on Gretchen get pissed off! Chick-fil-A Declares War on Christmas
For many Religious Right groups, Christmas is not so much a time to celebrate Immanuel than it is to raise money by fomenting outrage when shops use slogans like “happy holidays.” The American Family Association has a “Naughty or Nice” list to stir up consumers to boycott companies which are “against Christmas” and yesterday Liberty Counsel announced its “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” targeting public spaces which “censor” Christmas and selling their “Help Save Christmas Acton Pack.”
As Jeremy Hooper noted yesterday, it appears that the Religious Right’s most beloved fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, has indeed declared war on Christmas. In their horrific assault on Christmas, the company released a statement celebrating the “holiday season” that doesn’t once include the word “Christmas” and also pushed out a press release about “holiday gift giving,” again failing to mention “Christmas.” Even their online ads are clear affronts to Christmas!
We will wait to see whether LC or the AFA decide to be consistent with their boycott calls and paint Chick-fil-A as the season’s latest Grinch, but we won’t hold our breath, especially since Newt Gingrich, a proud foot soldier in the “War on Christmas,” escaped judgment when his company Gingrich Productions declared war on Christmas, and both LC chairman Mat Staver and AFA founder Don Wildmon endorsed him.
How dare those cows leave out the name of Christ in their seasonal greeting! I am sure they could get a bucket of paint and splash up some words of Noel for the Holiday Season. I wonder if they would call it Knowell? or Kristmose?
The DOJ has filed a lawsuit against BOA on so-called “hustle mortgages” that accuses the lender of selling bad mortgages to Fannie and Freddie. I’m going to follow this, believe me, because it represents a ‘big deal’ for any one that does research in banking, lending, or moral hazard. I’m not a lawyer–nor do I play one on TV–so the finer parts of the law are not in my knowledge ballpark. I do have some knowledge of home value through the apprenticeship I did with a home appraisal service. However, I expect this to influence both lending behavior and the willingness of larger banks to merge with banks in bad shape. The latter is a trick used by regulators to deal with a problem bank. Bank of America is basically being sued over mortgages originated through a Countrywide program called the “hustle mortgage”. It supposedly continued the program after its merger to Countrywide.
This is the first civil fraud suit brought by the Department of Justice concerning mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For the sixth time in less than 18 months, this Office has been compelled to sue a major U.S. bank for reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The fraudulent conduct alleged in today’s complaint was spectacularly brazen in scope. As alleged, through a program aptly named ‘the Hustle,’ Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill. As described, Countrywide and Bank of America systematically removed every check in favor of its own balance – they cast aside underwriters, eliminated quality controls, incentivized unqualified personnel to cut corners, and concealed the resulting defects. These toxic products were then sold to the government sponsored enterprises as good loans. This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated.”
FHFA Inspector General Steve A. Linick said: “To prevent fraud, conducting quality reviews and complying with underwriting standards are critical. Countrywide and Bank of America allegedly engaged in fraudulent behavior that contributed to the financial crisis, which ultimately falls on the shoulders of taxpayers. This type of conduct is reprehensible and we are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to hold all parties accountable.”
SIGTARP Special Inspector General Christy Romero said: “The complaint filed today alleges serious and significant misrepresentations that Bank of America made before and during the time taxpayers invested $45 billion in TARP funds in the bank. SIGTARP and its law enforcement partners will investigate allegations of wrongdoing by TARP recipients, particularly conduct that results in substantial losses to the government and taxpayers.”
Are we beginning to see the DOJ move on the banksters? Has this got anything to do with the stampeded to Romney by all things Wall Street?
The Bank of America lawsuit is the sixth brought against a major U.S. bank by the Justice Department in less than 18 months over what Bharara called “reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis.”
This month, the government sued Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), one of the biggest mortgage lenders and service, over claims the San Francisco-based bank made reckless loans that caused losses for a federal insurance program when they defaulted. The complaint alleges misconduct over more than a decade related to the bank’s participation in a Federal Housing Administration program and follows similar cases against other lenders including Citigroup Inc. (C) and Deutsche Bank AG. (DB)
A state and federal task force is investigating misconduct in the bundling of mortgage loans into securities before the housing bust. The group’s first legal action was this month, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. lender, over defective mortgage loans underlying securities, a suit he said would act as a template for other such cases. The bank has denied wrongdoing.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac losses totaled more than $1 billion, Bharara said. The Justice Department’s complaint was brought under the federal False Claims Act, which allows for triple damages.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have operated under U.S. conservatorship since 2008, when they were seized amid subprime mortgage losses that pushed them toward insolvency.
“Bank of America has stepped up and acted responsibly to resolve legacy mortgage matters,” Larry DiRita, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, said in an e-mailed statement. “The claim that we have failed to repurchase loans from Fannie Mae is simply false. At some point, Bank of America can’t be expected to compensate every entity that claims losses that actually were caused by the economic downturn.”
The government said in the complaint that Bank of America “systematically removed every check” in the issuance of mortgages and then sold the “flawed” mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Both relied on Bank of America’s assurances that the mortgages they purchased complied with their standards, the U.S. said.
According to the complaint, Countrywide initiated “the Hustle” in 2007 just as mortgage loan defaults were increasing nationally and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were tightening their loan purchasing standards to reduce risk. The Countrywide program did just the opposite, the U.S. said.
According to court records, Wednesday’s case was originally filed under seal in February by Edward O’Donnell, a Pennsylvania resident and former executive vice president at Countrywide Home Loans who had worked there between 2003 and 2009.
In that complaint, O’Donnell said Countrywide and later Bank of America dismissed his “numerous” objections to the Hustle, and that he became “one of the lone voices” in his division pointing to escalating loan quality issues and defaults.
O’Donnell could not immediately be reached for comment, and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Grab your bowl of popcorn. This should be interesting.