Saturday Reads: Obama Talks to Rouhani, Pakistan and Kenyan Disasters, Republican Terrorism, and More

Harvard-Square-Out-of-Town-News

Good Morning!!

It’s a beautiful Fall day in New England, the Red Sox have taken the American League East with the best record in baseball after winning 97 games with one game left to play. On top of that, the Yankees are pitiful. The playoffs start next Friday. It just doesn’t get better than this.

There is quite a bit of news for a Saturday. First up, President Obama spoke on the telephone to Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani yesterday–the first time leaders of the U.S. and Iran have spoken directly since 1979. The AP reports:

The United States and Iran took a historic step toward ending more than three decades of estrangement on Friday when President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone and agreed to work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

The 15-minute call capped a week of seismic shifts in the relationship that revolved around Rouhani’s participation in the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, U.S. and European diplomats hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.

The diplomatic warming began shortly after Rouhani’s election in June. But it is rooted in both presidents’ stated campaign desires — Obama in 2008 and Rouhani this year — to break through 34-year-old barriers and move toward diplomacy.

Iran is also seeking quick relief from blistering economic sanctions that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed on Tehran to punish it for refusing to scale back its nuclear activities. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but years of stonewalling inspections and secrecy about its activities have fueled fears it is seeking to build warheads.

Rouhani and Obama spoke while the Iranian president was in his car and headed to the airport to fly back to Tehran, with Obama at his desk in the Oval Office. Rouhani’s aides initially reached out to arrange the conversation, and the White House placed the call.

I’m not sure what it means to “work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon,”–do they want to calm suspicions or tamp down the nuclear efforts? But at least it’s a step in the right direction. The New York Times has more:

“Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program, told reporters at the White House after the 15-minute phone call. “It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region.”

A Twitter account in Mr. Rouhani’s name later stated, “In regards to nuclear issue, with political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter.” The account added that Mr. Rouhani had told Mr. Obama, “We’re hopeful about what we will see from” the United States and other major powers “in coming weeks and months.”

More detail about the call itself:

Mr. Obama placed the call from the Oval Office around 2:30 p.m., joined by aides and a translator.

He opened by congratulating Mr. Rouhani on his election in June and noted the history of mistrust between the two nations, but also what he called the constructive statements Mr. Rouhani had made during his stay in New York, according to the official. The bulk of the call focused on the nuclear dispute, and Mr. Obama repeated that he respected Iran’s right to develop civilian nuclear energy, but insisted on concessions to prevent development of weapons.

Mr. Obama also raised the cases of three Americans in Iran, one missing and two others detained. In a lighter moment, he apologized for New York traffic.

The call ended on a polite note, according to the official and Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account.

“Have a nice day,” Mr. Rouhani said in English.

“Thank you,” Mr. Obama replied, and then tried a Persian farewell. “Khodahafez.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that: U.S. Says Iran Hacked Navy Computers.

U.S. officials said Iran hacked unclassified Navy computers in recent weeks in an escalation of Iranian cyberintrusions targeting the U.S. military.

The allegations, coming as the Obama administration ramps up talks with Iran over its nuclear program, show the depth and complexity of long-standing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The U.S. officials said the attacks were carried out by hackers working for Iran’s government or by a group acting with the approval of Iranian leaders.

The most recent incident came in the week starting Sept. 15, before a security upgrade, the officials said. Iranian officials didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The allegations would mark one of the most serious infiltrations of U.S. government computer systems by Iran. Previously, Iranian-backed infiltration and surveillance efforts have targeted U.S. banks and computer networks running energy companies, current and former U.S. officials have said.

I’m sure Glenn Greenwald will have a highly disapproving story about this in the Guardian today. Oh wait, he’s probably more outraged that the NSA was able to discover the Iranian spying . . . Never mind.

When Rouhani got home, he was “met by hardline protesters chanting ‘Death to America,'” according to BBC News.

Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport, with supporters hailing the trip and opponents throwing shoes.

An Agence France-Presse journalist said some 200-300 supporters gathered outside the airport to thank Mr Rouhani for his efforts.

But opposite them were about 60 people shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Mr Rouhani raised his hand to the crowds as he was driven off.

A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president’s convoy.

There was another powerful earthquake today in Pakistan, according to CNN.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Balochistan province Saturday about 96 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Awaran, the United States Geological Survey said.

Rasheed Baloch, the Deputy Commissioner Awaran told CNN seven people died when a house collapsed in Mashkay Tehsil as result of new earthquake on Saturday.

Just Tuesday, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the same area of Pakistan. The death toll in that quake has risen to 366 people and another 765 are injured….

Baloch said a rescue operation was under way in Awaran district to retrieve the dead bodies and shift the injured to hospitals.

The remoteness of the affected area and damaged communications networks are hindering the rescue operation, officials said.

The Atlantic has a good article following up on “Tragic and Heroic Stories from Survivors of the Kenyan Mall Attack.”

Witness accounts and survivor stories from the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi continue to emerge, telling a freighting [sic] story of violence and terror. Yet, as the investigation continues, there are still some disturbing questions about the attack that have yet to be fully explained.

Now that more access has been granted to the ruined mall, images confirm that three floors of the building collapsed, presumably because of a large explosion. The Associated Press reported today that the collapse was actually caused by the Kenyan military, supporting a claim made by the terrorists themselves. It’s still not clear how or why they managed to set off the explosion, but it may have killed some (perhaps most?) of the hostages still inside the building.

The official death toll is still listed at 67, but it’s likely that unrecovered bodies will be found in the rubble. As many as 60 people are still missing.

CNN is also reporting today that the terrorists did not just plant weapons inside the mall in the days before the attack, as had been previously reported, but that members of al-Shabab had rented out a storeand were actually running it as functional business for nearly a year.

While investigators, including the FBI, continue their work, we’re learning more about what happened inside the mall during the attack, and what those who lived through it endured.

Check out some of the survivor stories at The Atlantic link.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a shocking report yesterday, according to BBC News. IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming.

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.

On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.

To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Too bad no humans in powerful positions are likely to do anything about it.

Back in the USA . . . 

Congress is still battling over whether or not to crash the global economy because Republicans don’t want ordinary Americans to have health care, Ted Cruz is still getting headlines for making an ass of himself, and the media is still trying to blame Democrats and Republicans equally for the mess we’re in.

From the Washington Post: Obama chides Republicans as shutdown looms.

With Washington barreling toward a government shutdown, a deadlocked Congress entered the final weekend of the fiscal year with no clear ideas of how to avoid furloughs for more than 800,000 federal workers. Millions more could be left without paychecks.

The Senate on Friday approved a stopgap government funding bill and promptly departed, leaving all of the pressure to find a solution on House Republican leaders.

President Obama weighed in, sternly lecturing GOP leaders that the easiest path forward would be to approve the Senate’s bill, which includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s prized legislation achievement, which he signed into law in 2010. But a far-right bloc of House and Senate Republicans banded together to leave House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) virtually powerless to act.

“My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room.

Boehner’s leadership team offered no public comment and remained out of sight most of Friday, hunkering down for another weekend on the brink. For Boehner, this is the latest in a series of unstable moments that have become the hallmark of his three-year run as speaker.

Al Gore uncharacteristically joined the fray, according to The Hill. Gore to GOP: ‘How dare you?’

Former Vice President Al Gore accused Republicans Friday of engaging in “political terrorism” by using a government shutdown as leverage to defund ObamaCare.

“The only phrase that describes it is political terrorism,” Gore said at the Brookings Institution, according to ABC News. “Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?”

The former vice president also criticized Republicans for threats to link defunding ObamaCare to the debt ceiling, which is set to expire Oct. 17.

“Now you want to threaten to not only shut down our government but to blow up the world economy unless we go back and undo what we did according to the processes of this democracy?” Gore said. “How dare you?”

But the media is still pushing their “both sides do it” narrative. At The Atlantic, James Fallows offers Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead. Here’s just a taste:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement,represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the “dig in their heels” headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.

This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Now please click the link and go over to The Atlantic–it’s a must read.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll go with a link dump on Ted Cruz–if you have the stomach for the details you can go to the sources.

Huffington Post: Student Cited By Ted Cruz As Proof Of Obama’s Failure Is Actually Grateful For Obamacare

John Dickerson at Slate: Why Senate Republicans Hate Ted Cruz

Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz Now Ruining John Boehner’s Life, Too

Politico: Ted Cruz again refuses to back John Cornyn

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about? See you in the comment thread!

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Sunday Reads: Pythons, Snow Storms and Reality… as we know it?

Good Morning!

Minx here, and since the last few days have been a living hell, this Sunday Reads are going to have lots of links…but not too much commentary.  After suffering through a migraine, the brain takes a bit to re-boot. It is frustrating to try to get your thoughts straight…so if the post is off, you know why!

For most of you it is a cold white morning, in fact this October Snow is the earliest to hit NYC since the Civil War. Snow storm hits many parts of north-eastern United States | Weather | guardian.co.uk

Huge swathes of the north-eastern United States have been hit by a rare October snow storm that struck across the region from Virginia all the way to Maine.

Dubbed “Snowtober” by news organisations covering the unusually early winter storm, the massive weather formation dumped up to 30cm (one foot) of snow in parts of the country that rarely see it this early in the year. Some estimates put the number of people affected by the unseasonal weather at around 60 million.

It sometimes shocks me when I spend a few days out of it with a migraine…and miss so much. If any one missed the great post from Wonk, Quixote, Peggy Sue, Dak and Boston Boomer…check them out!

Moving from cold October snow to an update on Kenya’s fight in Somalia. Kenya to Stay in Somalia Until Safe From Al-Shabab Menace | Africa | English

General Julius Karangi, Kenyan (CDF) Chief of the Defense Force, speaks to journalists at a military press briefing in Nairobi. Kenya, October 29, 2011.

Photo: AP
General Julius Karangi, Kenyan (CDF) Chief of the Defense Force, speaks to journalists at a military press briefing in Nairobi. Kenya, October 29, 2011.

Kenya’s Defense Ministry says it has not set a time frame for its operation against al-Shabab militants in Somalia, saying troops will leave the country when Kenyans feel secure.  Kenyan officials emphasized that they are not at war with Somalia, but with al-Shabab.

Kenya’s military chief, General Julius Karangi, told reporters Saturday that Kenya’s military will continue its assault in Somalia until Kenyans feel safe from what he called “the al-Shabab menace.”

“This campaign is not time bound, we shall leave it to the people of this country to decide that yes, we feel safe enough on the common border and then we shall come back.  So key factors or indicators would be in the form of a highly degraded al-Shabab capacity,” he said.

The military says it has killed hundreds of al-Shabab militants in 15 days of fighting, while only one Kenyan soldier has been killed in battle.

Meanwhile, as the US sends troops to Uganda…this little bit of news from Oklahoma was reported by Al Jazeera.

US court dismisses lawsuit against Kagame – Americas – Al Jazeera English

A federal court in the state of Oklahoma has dismissed a lawsuit against Rwandan President Paul Kagame, brought by the widows of two assassinated African presidents, ruling that he had immunity in the US.

District Judge Lee West ruled on Friday that as a head of state recognised by the US government, Kagame was immune from the wrongful death civil suit. The Obama administration had urged the court to recognise Kagame’s immunity.

Juvenal Habyarimana, then president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of neighbouring Burundi, were killed in a rocket attack on their plane at Kigali airport in 1994.

The attack triggered the Rwandan genocide, in which Hutu armed groups and soldiers killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The widows had sought $350m in damages, arguing that Kagame, leader of the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, had ordered the assassination of their Hutu husbands.

There is also some distressing news out of DR Congo: Congo’s militias mobilising again, leading peace activist warns | World news | The Observer

One of Congo’s leading peacemakers, Henri Ladyi – who has been called “Africa‘s Schindler” for his work rehabilitating child soldiers in the republic’s eastern region – said he feared years of hard work in demobilising militia members, especially child soldiers, was being undone. They were being pulled back into the bush to get ready for a fresh conflict, eight years after the formal end of Africa’s largest war, which killed 5 million people

[…]

He said chiefs of the Mai Mai – the name given to the vicious gangs who roamed eastern Congo, some politically motivated, others defending territory and stealing cattle – were preparing for clashes as they believed Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, was cooperating with the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, to organise wide-scale election fraud. Government efforts to disarm the militias, whose numbers have dwindled in recent years, were undermined by the fact that no proper peace and reconciliation process was followed, said Ladyi.

“We should have learned from every other African country – Liberia, South Africa, Rwanda – who put in place a reconciliation process after conflict. We did not succeed in DRC, and these leaders who are in power also don’t admit what their role was, so people do not trust them.

“There is no forgiveness in communities: people live alongside each other, shop in the same market, but with hatred still. We will not have peace in DRC until we have reconciliation. I fear instead we will have more war.”

In Tunisia, Democracy is being to take hold, this next op/ed from Monica Marks, a doctoral student in Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford University, discusses the idea Can Islamism and Feminism Mix? – NYTimes.com

A small but increasingly vocal minority of secular Tunisians are predicting that an Islamist-dominated national assembly will reverse key pieces of civil rights legislation, including those recognizing the right to abortion and prohibiting polygamy.

Tunisia’s secular feminists, many of whom are urban admirers of French-style secularism, see Ennahda women as unwitting agents of their own domination. Although Ennahda openly supports Tunisia’s 1956 Code of Personal Status — arguably the most progressive piece of women’s rights legislation in the Arab world — its critics accuse the party as a whole of purveying a “double discourse,” adopting a soft, tolerant line when speaking to francophone secularists but preaching a rabidly conservative message when addressing its rural base.

Rather than developing strong platforms of their own, secular opposition parties like Ettajdid have focused their campaign efforts almost exclusively on fear mongering, raising the specter of an Iranian-style Islamist takeover and the imposition of Shariah, the legal code of Islam. Daniel Pipes and other Western commentators have joined the fray, urging Washington to stand against the “blight” of Ennahda and labeling Islamism “the civilized world’s greatest enemy.”

But as the article continues, there is a sense of hope for women in Tunisia.

In May, Tunisia passed an extremely progressive parity law, resembling France’s, which required all political parties to make women at least half of their candidates. As a long-repressed party, Ennahda enjoyed more credibility than other groups. It also had a greater number of female candidates to run than any other party, and strongly supported the parity law as a result.

[…]

According to Mounia Brahim and Farida Labidi, 2 of the 13 members of Ennahda’s Executive Council, the party welcomes strong, critical women in its ranks. “Look at us,” Ms. Brahim said. “We’re doctors, teachers, wives, mothers — sometimes our husbands agree with our politics, sometimes they don’t. But we’re here and we’re active.”

[…]

These women are not likely to oppose women’s rights legislation. Ennahda women are, first and foremost, Tunisians. They are well educated, and their brand of Islamism, like Tunisian society as a whole, is relaxed and comparatively progressive. Since the 1950s, Tunisian women have enjoyed greater legal protections than their counterparts in other Arab states.

In Russia, a huge renovation is complete…Joy and Nostalgia in Moscow as Bolshoi Theater Reopens – NYTimes.com

…if you wanted to understand the significance of the event, it was more useful to stand outside, where a few hundred people not lucky enough to get tickets were watching the gala on two large screens. It was a cold, miserable night, and the whole thing was covered live on television, but they stood there anyway, and when columns of ballerinas appeared to the adagio from “Swan Lake,” there were audible sighs of delight.

The reopening of the Bolshoi is freighted with political significance; the six-year restoration has turned the clock back to the late 19th century, replacing thousands of Soviet hammer-and-sickle signs with imperial double-headed eagles. More simply, though, it fills a vacuum in a country besotted by art.

Take a look at some of the images from behind the scenes in the magnificent Bolshoi. The Bolshoi Theater Reopens – Audio & Photos – NYTimes.com

Sticking with culture…and art, a new production on BBCRadio4 has inspired a new book…‘History of the World in 100 Objects,’ From British Museum – NYTimes.com

Trustees of the British Museum

A double-headed serpent Aztec figurine from Mexico (A.D. 1400-1600), part of a project to tell the history of the world in 100 objects from the British Museum.

IT was a project so audacious that it took 100 curators four years to complete it. The goal: to tell the history of the world through 100 objects culled from the British Museum’s sprawling collections. The result of endless scholarly debates was unveiled, object by chronological object, on a BBC Radio 4 program in early 2010, narrated by Neil MacGregor, director of the museum. Millions of listeners tuned in to hear his colorful stories — so many listeners that the BBC, together with the British Museum, published a hit book of the series, “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” which is being published in the United States on Monday

Also from the Guardian, A Halloween reading list | Books | guardian.co.uk

However, being the très cool, alternative trendies that we are, let’s not settle for any old horror novel. Sure, American Psycho or The Shining will scare the bejeesus out of you, guaranteed. But that’s a bit too easy.

Instead, I’ve put together an alternative Halloween reading list in preparation for next Monday: novels that are eerie, horrifying or disturbing in unusual and different ways. (And please, no jokes about Jeffrey Archer or Cecelia Ahern being truly gruesome … mainly because I’ve just made one.)

There is one book I would add to the list…Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor.

From Minx’s Missing Link File:  In the world of snakes and science…Python Digestion Study Holds Promise for Human Heart Health – NYTimes.com

Paul Zenk/PBS Nature “Invasion of the Giant Pythons”

A giant python swallows an alligator in Everglades National Park, Fla.

Pythons are known for their enormous appetites. In a single meal they can devour animals at least as big as they are — deer, alligators pigs and house pets, for example.

Equally remarkable is what happens inside the python as it digests its prey. Within a day, its heart and other organs can double in size. The metabolic rate and production of insulin and lipids soar.

Then, like an accordion, the python’s organs return to normal size in just a few days. Metabolism slows. Then the snake can fast for months, even a year, without losing muscle mass or showing any ill effects, ready to ambush new prey.

How this process happens so rapidly is a biological mystery with important implications for human health, particularly when it comes to heart failure. Now scientists at the University of Colorado here are reporting that they have partly solved it.

Give that link a read, it is fascinating.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  Last night on TCM there was a movie called The Body Snatcher, about the days when doctors would buy bodies for dissection…and the special people who would provide these bodies…sometimes getting them from the graveyard was more difficult than killing them in an alley. So continuing the Halloween theme. Whodunnit? Grave-robbery in early medieval northern and western Europe – Medievalists.net

This thesis brings together all that is currently known of early medieval grave reopening in northern and western Europe. It investigates in detail an intensive outbreak of grave-robbery in 6th-7th century Kent. This is closely related to the same phenomenon in Merovingia: an example of the import of not only material goods but also a distinctive cultural practice. Limited numbers of similar robbing episodes, affecting a much smaller proportion of graves in each cemetery, are also identified elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon England. Although the phenomenon of grave-robbery is well-attested in Merovingia, this research is the first study at a regional level.

The aim is to advance the debate about early medieval robbery from general discussion of interpretative possibilities to evaluation of specific models and their compatibility with the archaeological evidence. The conclusions have significant implications for the interpretation of grave-robbery across early medieval Europe. In Kent robbing is at a level that must be considered in any discussion of cemetery evidence. The poor publication record has inhibited recognition and analysis of robbing in the county. However, by using extensive archive material, this thesis has shown that the practice of ransacking graves was on a similar scale in East Kent as in Merovingia.

This research identifies over 200 reopened graves across Kent, with at least 15 sites affected. At the most intensely robbed sites, an average of over 20% of burials were disturbed. Robbing is likely to have had a significant impact on artefact finds, especially from the late 6th century onwards. Grave-robbery opens a window onto the wider meanings and values of grave-good types within the early medieval period. The analysis in this thesis demonstrates that the main motive for reopening was the removal of grave goods. However, straightforward personal enrichment was not the goal. A deliberate, consistent selection of certain grave-good types were taken from burials, while other apparently covetable possessions were left behind. The desired grave-goods were removed even when in an unusable condition. It is argued that the selection of goods for removal was related to their symbolic roles in the initial burial rite. Their taking was intended to harm living descendants by damaging the prestige and strength of the dead. In addition to the robbed graves, there is a small number of graves spread across the sites which were reopened for bodily mutilation or rearrangement of skeletal parts. These closely resemble the better known deviant burial rites which were applied to certain corpses at the time of initial burial and are interpreted as a reaction to fear of revenants.

I want to end with this report of sexual assault on the MTV reality show, Real World…it is disturbing. You may remember some months ago, the Village Voice published an article about the contracts participants must sign to be on Real World.  (link below) It absolved MTV of any responsibility if participants were sexually assaulted. Check this out…Was a “Real World” star raped by her castmates? – Reality TV – Salon.com

Tonya Cooley is a former “Real World Chicago” and “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” cast member. She’s been a Playboy “Cybergirl of the Week,” has worked with the Girls Gone Wild team, and done a little Cinemax softcore. And absolutely none of that means that she wasn’t raped.

I won’t go into the details, but it involves a toothbrush, a couple of guys, and a TV crew.  Cooley was unaware of the event, she had drunk a lot of alcohol and passed out, no one alerted her to the video taped assault, however they did replace the toothbrush with a brand new one…

Of course, reality TV has a long and tawdry track record with the ladies. In 2003, a guest at the “Real World San Diego” house claimed she was drugged and raped during a party. Two years ago, the gruesome suicide of “Megan Wants a Millionaire’s” Ryan Alexander Jenkins, while facing charges for killing his ex-wife, served as a temporary reminder of the desperate laxity involved in screening potential reality show stars. We got another reminder in June, when “Cake Boss” co-star Remy Gonzalez pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 13 year-old girl. Then in August,”Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Taylor Armstrong’s estranged husband Russell committed suicide in the wake of a domestic violence scandal. Long before “Housewives,” Armstrong earned himself retraining orders from two separate prior relationships and pleaded guilty to battery.

This list of disgusting connections between reality shows and violence against women and girls is shocking, I had no idea there was so much disgusting things going on…I never watch these shows, they make me want to grab a bucket. Avoiding all the “stuff” in the entertainment industry is a good thing, it isn’t until researching Botox treatment for migraines that I came upon the latest from the Michael Jackson trial…this is unbelievable, the man got Botox injected in his armpits and groin so that he would not sweat

Back to the Salon piece:

But without all the facts of the case, we know that Cooley is a loose cannon — and that reality TV depends upon bad behavior, and often encourages it. We know that MTV’s contracts have stipulated that if you get “non-consensual physical contact,” is a risk that comes with the territory — and the network is not responsible. We know that we still live in a world where the Huffington Post can blithely chalk up an alleged sexual assault as a “freak incident.” You know, like hail in the desert. And that on TVology.com, Terron Moore has decided the accused “did some things Tonya didn’t like… and well, she’s just now complaining about it.” You know, like anyone would if someone put an empty carton of milk back in the fridge. Of Cooley’s allegation that men were coached to feel up the females, he adds, “Who needs encouraging to touch privates, exactly? That’s the fun part!”

Clearly it’s time for a refresher course here. If you grope a person without consent, that is assault. If violate a human being, even one who is passed out drunk, you are raping that person. That is not a “freak incident” — and it sure as hell isn’t the fun part. Nobody should get a free pass to commit crime because he’s on a reality show, and nobody should sign away her right to safety from abuse to be on TV. Those who still don’t get it are the ones who need to get real.

What the hell…the PLUB religious right is not the only jackasses on an anti-woman campaign, they are getting the best kind of assistance by the media and entertainment industry…not to mention dumb assholes that feel it is “fun” to commit a violent act towards a woman.  Where are we heading to…somebody tell me!


You can’t win… Late Night Open Thread

Mama bird protecting her kids...

Good Evening Y’all!

Hey, I have some links for you tonight, to make up for the lame evening reads post earlier today.

The first link is something from last week, and I completely missed it. H/T to Taylor Marsh: President Obama learns perils of roiling Maxine Waters – Joseph Williams – POLITICO.com

Obama responded in a high-profile speech urging black lawmakers to “stop grumbling”and fight alongside him. Waters responded with five TV hits in one day, delivering a blunt message: “I don’t know who he was talking to.”

Administration officials called Waters’s office to complain, discounted her as a perennial malcontent, and reminded reporters that Obama’s speech, which laid out accomplishments like tax credits for working families and protections from predatory lenders, drew a standing ovation from the majority-black audience. At the same time, White House surrogate Rev. Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host, publicly took Waters to task for being too hard on Obama.

Yeah the Obama admin called Waters…but Obama has never personally talked to Waters. (Can you believe it?)

Her aides say Obama, however, has not personally reached out to the congresswoman since taking office. The president’s distaste for the flesh-pressing aspect of politics that Waters is used to, is well known.

“I don’t have a relationship with the White House,” Water said, quickly adding that the president is cordial to her when they meet at a ceremony or reception. Still, “I’ve never had a conversation with the president.”

WTF? That is ridiculous. It’s been almost a day since I saw this article and it still bothers me!

The article ends with an assumption that Waters will suck it up and do whatever she can to ensure Obama gets re-elected. I’m not so sure she will break her neck getting out there like some barker for a Obama 2nd term carousel. What do you all think?

Let’s get to some global news…In Libya, the new government is promising strict adherence to Islamic law. One of the current laws they are overturning from Gaddafi’s rule regards the ban on polygamy.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the NTC…attempted to reassure the NTC’s Western backers that the country would be a “moderate” Muslim nation, amid concern over its plans to introduce Islamic law. He appeared to soften his position less than 24 hours after using the liberation ceremony to declare that Sharia law would be the basis of all legislation.

His attempt at conciliation hinted at the difficulty the NTC is having in balancing the demands of secularists and influential Islamist factions who played a strong role in the uprising.

France and the EU warned the NTC to respect human rights after Mr Jalil’s speech on Sunday in which he singled out a ban on polygamy as legislation which would have to be swept aside.

Yup, get rid of the ban on polygamy…way to move forward there. I guess the Arab Spring is not for all Arabs…particularly the female kind.

So far the Obama Administration is staying silent on the direction the NTC in Libya is heading…Let’s see if Hillary Clinton will make any statements about the future of Libyan women’s rights.

In Kenya, some recent violence seems to stem from the Kenyan military action into Somalia targeting the terrorist group al-Shabab. Two Explosions in Kenya’s Capital; 1 Dead

Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, has been rocked by two explosions in crowded downtown areas that have killed one person and wounded more than 20 others.

Officials say someone hurled a grenade Monday evening at a Nairobi bus stop. One person died and eight others were rushed to the hospital after the attack.

Earlier Monday, an unidentified assailant threw a grenade into a downtown Nairobi bar, wounding at least 13 people.

Police are investigating both attacks, which followed warnings from the Somali militant group al-Shabab that it would launch attacks inside Kenya.

There is some very disturbing reports about teenagers raping old women out of Nigeria, and the mass rapes of the Congo-Kinishasa are continuing to make news in the African Press.

https://i0.wp.com/allafrica.com/img/csi/00150822_1088300cf963f8c21d541b50c38d8aca/w430.jpg

You can read more at the All Africa website: allAfrica.com: Sustainable Africa: Women and Gender

The Occupy protest is causing Faux news to take it to another level…as if they could go any lower.  Fox & Friends: Protesting Mom ‘More Disgusting Than Any of the Filth Down on Wall Street’ | Video Cafe

The Fox & Friends kids’ reaction to the Stacey Hessler story was the same sort of predictable nonsense you’d expect from people paid primarily to get outraged over the latest liberal/marxist attack on America. The weekend edition though just might be outdoing their weekday counterparts in hysteria.

According to them, Hessler is (a) an unfit mother of four young kids for leaving them behind in Florida as she lives on the street in Manhattan; (b) who probably wasn’t ‘putting out’ for her banker husband anyway (hmm…oh, nevermind); and is now (c) shacked up with some young waiter from Brooklyn.

Get a load of the load of B.S., just check out the link for the video, there is also a transcript of the banter between the weekend version of Fox & Friends.

Rachel Maddow has the picture below featured in one of her blog’s post…

This sign — and commentary — is hanging outside a food pantry in Manhattan’s East Village. Maybe it’s time we did something about the economy.

This week marks 10 years since the PATRIOT Act was signed into law…and now there is a new proposed change in the Freedom of Information Act. Rule Change Would Allow Government to Lie About Whether Records Exist

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist—even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal—part of a lengthy rule revisionby the Department of Justice—would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

Open-government groups object.

No kidding…when we are in an age that is actually considering immunity for banks…what else do you expect.

On to immigration reform…Obama style.

Democrats consider new immigration reform push

Democratic sources tell CNN that it’s likely that Democrats on Capitol Hill –with the approval of the White House– will re-introduce some form of immigration reform, possibly as early as December. At this point, the details of any plan are unclear. But what is clear is that Democrats are interested in using their version of reform as a “contrast issue” to Republicans, who largely emphasize border security.

Sources say there are ongoing discussions among Democrats ranging from re-introducing comprehensive reform to bringing up the Dream Act again, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the military to become citizens. The Dream Act was defeated last year.

Another possibility being considered is to combine a tough border security plan introduced by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl with a form of the Dream Act. “Nothing has been decided,” says one Senate Democratic leadership aide. But, he adds, “there’s a lot of interest.”

Well, let’s see what comes of this new immigration reform, considering Obama’s administration has had a record number of deportations…three years in a row…I am sure it will be something to appease and insure Obama gets the Latino vote.

Obama has a way to go to get approval from Latino voters, check out the civil right statements being made in Alabama…Civil rights groups charge Obama with hypocrisy over Alabama immigration law

The Obama administration is facing charges of hypocrisy for fighting a controversial Alabama immigration law while using the measure to arrest and deport illegal immigrants in the state.

Civil rights and Latino advocacy groups laud the Justice Department’s (DOJ) lawsuit challenging Alabama over its newly enacted immigration law, which allows state law enforcement officials to require suspected criminals to show proof of their immigration status.

But the groups blasted the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) continued use in Alabama of the Secure Communities program, which transmits the immigration status records of people arrested in the state to federal authorities. The new state law subjects the Latino community to racial profiling and the Secure Communities program places illegal immigrants who are arrested in line to be deported by DHS, the groups said.

“You have two agencies that are pursuing courses that are inconsistent with each other,” said Joanne Lin, a legislative council for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in an interview.

When you read this post about the hypocrisy…of do as I say, not as I do…this next article about a speech Attorney General Holder gave at a memorial for civil rights advocate Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who passed away earlier this month, is kind of ironic…in a pathetic way.  Holder: Alabama ignoring its past

Attorney General Eric Holder says too many in Alabama “are willing to turn their backs on our immigrant past.”

Referring to Alabama’s recently enacted immigration law, Holder told the audience gathered at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church on Sunday that he “was not going to let that happen.”

And then you have the bat-shit crazy electrified fence idea from the GOP idiot de jour, Herman Cain…but what about the GOP stance on immigration as a whole:

Why Republican Candidates Skirt the Real Immigration Issue

If you’re a restrictionist (personally, I’d like to see more folks allowed to come here legally), the test to gauge whether Republicans are actually intent on substantially decreasing illegal immigration, or just pandering, should be their position on workplace enforcement. It’s common to hear them decry birthright citizenship and in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants as “magnets” that exacerbate unlawful border crossings. But jobs are the draw that ultimately matters. GOP candidates benefit from obscuring that reality, because they are determined to win the support of the business community, which is understandably averse to increased workplace enforcement. It would disrupt many industries, impose extra human resources costs on companies wary of breaking the law, and result in fines and other penalties for lawbreaking companies.

Thus the awful status quo wherein someone can rise to temporary front-runner status in a GOP primary joking about the death by electrocution of Mexicans, but wouldn’t dare to joke about arresting CEOs who deliberately hire illegal immigrants or prosecuting upper-middle-class homeowners who do the same. At GOP fundraisers, bad ideas like that are no laughing matter. Unlike restrictionists, I don’t think illegal immigrants who are employed and law-abiding are hurting America so much as contributing to it, so until they’re made citizens, which I’d like to see happen, I’d rather focus enforcement efforts on human smugglers, gang members, and other criminals. Another option would be to grant amnesty to any illegal immigrant who came forward to show that he’d been hired sans documents, fine his employer, and give him a green card. That would end the hiring of undocumented labor quickly, but is totally politically unrealistic.

I think Conor Friedersdorf makes some valid points. I agree with making legal immigration more accessible, and the unrealistic option about granting amnesty to immigrants that have been hired by American employers seems like a good idea to me.

Alright, I have a few cool links to end this post. The world’s population is supposed to hit 7 billion soon…

How big was the world’s population when you were born?

The Guardian has this cool thing at the link above, you type in the date you were born and poof, it gives you a bit of statistical info…check it out.

Over a MoJo there is an article about Bluegrass Music and Chinese Folk songs, which I thought went kind of well with Boston Boomers post last night. Abigail Washburn Brings Bluegrass to the Silk Road

And lastly to connect you with the real Silk Road…I found this cool group of pictures from a carnival round up on the blog She-Wolf: Welcome to the Medieval Carnival!

It’s my pleasure to host this month’s edition of Carnivalesque, showcasing the best in recent blogging on ancient and medieval history.

There are lots of cool links at She-Wolf’s carnival, but this last one is fantastic.

I thought this Flickr collection was worth a mention. Juliana Lees has been collecting images of pre-1200 Eastern textiles found in Western churches and cathedrals, with a particular interest in Silk Road influences.

Ancient textiles from the East in Western churches and museums –

Ancient textiles from the East have often been conserved in Western churches and cathedrals. They were sometimes used as shrouds and subsequently venerated as holy relics, the source of lucrative pilgrimages. They were also brought back from the East by crusaders and pilgrims, or given to established abbeys and cathedrals by great lords and princes. Some of these Sassanian, Byzantine, Egyptian and Moorish textiles are still in religious edifices, in their treasuries or episcopal museums. Others can be found in museums all over the world. There is no doubt that they have been of the greatest importance in disseminating the styles and cultural influences of the Silk Routes into Western Europe and many motifs familiar to us on Romanesque capitals and artefacts have their origin in the imported silks and especially the Sassanian images.

Well, that should be more than enough for you all to ponder.

I’ll leave you all with a song that has been in my head all day…have a great evening!


Sunday Reads: Nasty Big Pointy Teeth… Yeah, that is Something to Fear!

Good Morning!

We write these morning posts the night before, and I am writing this one watching the Wisconsin v Michigan State…its a good game…at least no blow out! (Wow, the last few seconds of the game were something to see. Michigan pulled a Hail Mary and Wisconsin deflected the pass in the end zone right into the hands of a Michigan player who fought his way to a touchdown.)

There is a green menace attacking Lake Erie…it’s toxic but not radioactive…and there is a gray monster on the prowl in Australia. More on this at the end, think of it as your morning terror tease.

I’m going to stick with the US for a bit, and then hit the world news.

Occupy is taking up residence in a new location. This time in a swank Connecticut neighborhood, specifically on the front lawn of GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s house. Which I think is fabulous!

It seems that Occupy is getting threats from all sides. Susie Madrak had a post on her blog about Anonymous taking down a servers of a company that hosts an underground child pornography site. Looks like there is some trash talk going on, threats are being made and references to NYPD beating some Occupy ass…Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » No good deed goes unpunished Give that link a click if you want to read the instant messages between Anonymous and the Lolita kiddie porn site.

When a foreign press outlet is praising a politician from the US, it makes you wonder why our own US media hasn’t picked up on it. On Friday, the Guardian ran a story about Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders: America’s No1 socialist makes his move into the mainstream

Bernie Sanders sits in his Senate office and reflects on another unexpected twist in his already unusual political life. As the only self-proclaimed socialist to sit in the US Congress, Sanders is long used to surviving in the political wilderness. But Sanders is now having to get used to a different environment altogether: the mainstream.

His constant slamming of Wall Street, his critiques of big business and the excesses of money in politics, as well as his call for a defence of American jobs, have become hot issues in US politics. The senator from Vermont is now a regular on American TV screens and rapidly becoming a fixture of US politics and a hero to many on the left.

The white-haired and irascible Sanders, 70, who is famed for his blunt outspokenness, almost became bashful at the thought that his exile from the mainstream appears to be ending.

It’s about damn time too!

“It’s, you know, nice to know that positions you have been advocating for years are now getting out to Main Street, and that millions of people are beginning to say: enough is enough,” he told the Guardian.

Is this, at last, his political moment? “Yeah, it is,” he said, and then he details why, in a typically long, passionate, Sanders-style explosion of stream-of-consciousness explanation.

“If you were to speak to any audience in America and you say: there’s something wrong with our system when the crooks on Wall Street, through their recklessness and criminal behaviour, are able to cause a recession, which has resulted in so much suffering to people, and then they get bailed out by the American people and then three years later end up making more money than they ever have before: people go nuts!”

He pauses for breath to think about the situation. “The short answer to
your question is: ‘Yes’,” he says.

Give the rest of the article a read, Sanders has been doing interviews quite a lot lately, and he is making sense. Maybe people are starting to take notice.

Help my memory a bit, cause this next link seems like deja vu. Bachmann on the Spot In Iowa Michele Bachmann was talking to a group of people at a town hall and took a question from a woman who had no health insurance…and the answer sounds like something Ron Paul and Santorum and one of the other GOP bozo candidates has said recently.

“My son is 22 and he’s on an expanded Medicaid program that’s under Obamacare,” the woman said to Bachmann. “You often talk about stopping Obamacare. I want to know what you’re going to do . . . I can’t afford $1,000 a month.”

The woman shook her head and looked annoyed as the 55-year-old Minnesota congresswoman recalled her parents paying $5 when she visited the doctor as a child in Iowa.  She blamed federal government intervention for raising prices, and contended that increasing competition among insurance companies and reining in medical malpractice costs will help make health insurance more affordable. She also suggested private charity as an option.

“We will always have people in this country through hardship, through no fault of their own, who won’t be able to afford health care,” Bachmann said. “That’s just the way it is.  But usually what we have are charitable organizations or hospitals, who have enough left over so that they can pick up the cost for the indigent who can’t afford it.  But what we have to do is be a profitable nation that’s growing, so that we can pay for those people who can’t afford it through no fault of their own.  Once Obamacare is gone, this is what we have to do.”

Oh yeah, private charity…these GOP asshats are so quick to suggest begging for help…just as fast as they are in denouncing poor people in need who are on government assistance.

Another example of this crap can be seen in the latest from Senator Jeff Sessions…Sen. Jeff Sessions Tries To Cut Food Stamp Funding

Senator Jeff Sessions is very, very, very worried about fraud, waste and abuse within the Federal food stamp program (SNAP). So worried he has introduced an amendment to cut funds to the program because he’s certain there are just a bunch of poor deadbeats out there taking advantage of the Feds’ largesse.

The press release from his office on Friday says it all:

Consider the food stamp program, now known as “SNAP”—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is the largest item in Agriculture Department’s budget. Spending on food stamps has surged over the last decade. It’s nearly doubled since President Obama took office. And in the appropriations bill before us this week, Senate Democrats propose another increase that would quadruple food stamp spending from what it was in 2001.

Eleven million more Americans are on food stamps now than when President Obama first took office. The size of the benefit has increased 31 percent since 2008. When the food stamp program was expanded nationally in the 1970s, food stamps were used by 2 percent of the population. At the beginning of the last decade, they were used by 6 percent of the population. Today that figure has risen to 13 percent—one in eight Americans. This seven-fold increase in food stamp usage demands honest examination.

It’s time to look under the hood.

You can take a look at the rest of the press release at that link above…what an ass, I can’t stand these people. They have absolutely no good will towards their fellow man…hmmm, I can hear Sessions now…jabbering about workhouses and decreases in the surplus population.

Alright, I’m doing it again…by that I mean writing about Alabama and the anti-immigration law. This time let’s look at what ripple reaction this law is creating when it comes to white kids bullying Hispanic children.  After Alabama law, Hispanic kids being bullied

Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama’s tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law, which has been widely covered in the news, discussed in some classrooms and debated around dinner tables.

Justice Department officials are monitoring for bullying incidents linked to the law.

“We’re hearing a number of reports about increases in bullying that we’re studying,” the head of the agency’s civil rights division, Thomas Perez, said during a stop in Birmingham.

The article talks about a group of kids playing basketball.

It was just another schoolyard basketball game until a group of Hispanic seventh-graders defeated a group of boys from Alabama.

The reaction was immediate, according to the Mexican mother of one of the winners, and rooted in the state’s new law on illegal immigration.

“They told them, `You shouldn’t be winning. You should go back to Mexico,”‘ said the woman, who spoke through a translator last week and didn’t want her name used. She and her son are in the country illegally.

As if these kids don’t have enough to worry about. Now they have to deal with the additional hate this law is bringing towards the Hispanics in the state.

But hate is not a new problem in the deep south, as this next disturbing article from CNN shows us. Teen murder suspect carried ‘backpack of hatred’

Editor’s note: This story contains language that some readers may consider offensive. For more on this story, watch “Mississippi Still Burning?” on CNN Presents, Sunday, October 23, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.

To get to Brandon, you have to drive across the Pearl River, a boundary that seems to separate black Mississippi from white.

In the town’s center, a monument stands honoring the confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

This mostly white town in mostly white Rankin County is about a 30-minute drive from Jackson, Mississippi. It’s here in Brandon that some residents say a gang of teenagers expressed their strong racial prejudice — sometimes through violence.

These residents say the teens were friends with and often led by Deryl Dedmon, now 19 and facing capital murder and hate crime charges for the killing of James Anderson, a black man, who died after he was beaten and run over by a truck in Jackson, according to police. Dedmon has pleaded not guilty and his attorney has refused to answer CNN’s repeated requests for comment.

Another teen, John Aaron Rice, was charged with simple assault. He has not entered a plea. The other five teens who were there have not been arrested or charged, though officials say they may still be indicted .

I urge you to read the entire article, because it touches on the extreme hate these young men have towards blacks, and their lack of conscience when it comes to their killing of James Anderson. A killing that was caught on surveillance cameras.

“They were looking for black people. They were looking for a black person to assault,” said Mississippi’s Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.

[…]

Shortly after he allegedly drove the truck over Anderson, Dedmon boasted and laughed about the killing, according to testimony given by some of the teens to detectives.

“I ran that nigger over,” Dedmon allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car. He repeated the racial language in subsequent conversations, according to the law enforcement officials.

“He was not remorseful, he was laughing, laughing about the killing,” said Smith.

The local police do not seem too concerned, as one of the teenage witnesses says,

“I’ve even heard it out of some of the police officers’ mouths,” he said. “This is their statement: ‘Well, Deryl was a good kid. He just made one bad mistake.”

Yeah, he got caught.

Alright, that is it for the US, let’s go global…

The fighting in Kenya is getting more complicated. We’ve seen the abduction of tourist and aid workers, now the possibility of more targeted violence on foreigners is giving the US Embassy reason to issue a warning.   U.S. Embassy in Kenya warns citizens of ‘imminent threat’

The U.S. Embassy in Kenya warned American citizens Saturday of an “imminent threat of terrorist attacks” after Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia to pursue suspected Islamic militants from Al-Shabaab.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told CNN about the advance this week, which marks a dramatic shift in security tactics for the east African powerhouse.

“This is to inform U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Kenya that the U.S. Embassy in Kenya has received credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks directed at prominent Kenyan facilities and areas where foreigners are known to congregate, such as malls and night clubs,” the U.S. Embassy said in an emergency message.

It looks like other Eastern African nations are backing Kenya’s offensive in Somolia.

African Union peacekeepers are seen in the Deynile district of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia, October 20, 2011.

Photo: AP
African Union peacekeepers are seen in the Deynile district of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia, October 20, 2011.

The six-nation east African regional group the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has pledged full support for Kenya’s military offensive against al-Qaeda linked militants in southern Somalia. Other countries in the region are considering joining the effort as the militants appear to be losing their grip on the famine-stricken Somali countryside.

Reports are coming in that suggest Kenyan soldiers are making their way toward the rebel held port of Kismayo.

IGAD held an extraordinary ministerial level meeting Friday, five days after Kenya launched an offensive against al-Shabab.  More than two battalions of Kenyan troops backed by air power streamed into southern Somalia after Shabab rebels were blamed for a series of kidnappings of foreign tourists and aid workers.

A communiqué issued after the brief meeting in the Ethiopian capital welcomes Kenya’s move to scale up security operations.

In other Africa news, Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been declared the most powerful women in Africa by Forbes Magazine.

As if winning the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize wasn’t enough, Forbes Magazine, one of the most influential business publications in the United States, has, in its maiden Africa issue, honored President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia by naming her the most powerful woman on the African continent, among 20 women listed.

According to the first issue of Forbes Africa Magazine, which went on sale October 1, President Sirleaf tops the list of most powerful African women, with Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Malawi’s Vice President Joyce Banda in second and third place, respectively. The list includes 11 women from South Africa alone.

The run off election will be held in November, I hope Sirleaf keeps her position as president. We’ll keep you posted as Liberia moves towards that run off vote.

Boston Boomer mentioned Cannonfire’s take on the “convenient” death of Gaddafi in her Saturday morning post. I want to bring your attention to this post over at Emptywheel. The OTHER Saudi Assassination Plotter Got a Reduced Sentence in July 

This post from Cannonfire reminded me how convenient for our country it is that Moammar Qaddafi was executed rather than captured alive and tried: he will not be able to tell anyone, now that he’s dead, how Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, who under torture provided one of the casus belli for the Iraq war, came to be suicided in a Libyan prison just as Americans started focusing on torture in 2009.

That, plus the death of the Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, made me think of another plot Qaddafi brings to his grave: that he had purportedly arranged to assassinate then Crown Prince now King Abdullah. The evidence to support that plot mostly came from Abdulrahman Alamoudi, a prominent American Muslim who was arrested in 2003 on charges he violated trade sanctions against Libya.

[…]

Anyway, thinking about the similarities between that case and the Scary Iran Plot led me to consult Alamoudi’s docket (most of which is not available online). What happens to a guy convicted in connection with plotting with a nasty African dictator as we launch the war to finally kill that dictator?

Well, it turns out that at about the time it was clear we’d stick around to ensure Qaddafi died in this kinetic action, a sealed document got filed in Alamoudi’s case. And, on July 20, 2011, Alamoudi got about 30% knocked off his sentence, from 276 months to 197.

Hmmmm, interesting indeed…I’m sure Gaddafi took some big ass secrets with him to hell…and it wouldn’t surprise me if a bunch of “cleaners” from the CIA are working to make sure those secrets don’t come out.

There is an interesting article cited over at History News Network, some of you may want to click over there and check it out: Yoani Sanchez: The Deaths of Dictators: Neither History Nor Their People Will Ever Absolve Them

Ceausescu was in his helicopter, Saddam Hussein was hiding in a hole, Tunisia’s Ben Ali fled into exile, Gaddafi fled in a convoy and ended up hiding in a drainpipe. The autocrats escape, they leave, they don’t sacrifice themselves in the palaces from which they dictated their arbitrary laws; they do not die seated in the presidential chairs with a red sash across their chests. They always have a hidden door, a secret passage through which they can scurry away when they sense danger. Over decades they build their secret bunkers, their protected “ground zeros” or their underground refuges, because they fear that the same people who applaud them in the plazas can come for them when they lose their fear. In the nightmares of the dictators, the demons are their own subjects, the abyss takes the form of mobs who want to bring down their statues, spit on their photos. These despotic gentlemen sleep lightly, alert to the cries, the hammering on the door… they live with premonitions, often of their deaths.

I would have liked to see Muammar Gaddafi before a court, indicted for the crimes he committed against his country. I think the violent deaths of the satraps only gives them an aura of martyrdom they do not deserve. They must be left alive to hear the public testimony of their victims, to see their countries move forward without the hindrance they represented, and to observe the fickleness of the opportunists who once supported them. They must survive to witness the dismantling of the false history they rewrote, to see how the new generations begin to forget them, and to hear the diatribes, the scorn, the fiercest criticism. To lynch a despot is to save him, to offer him an almost glorious way out that spares him the lasting punishment of being judged before the law.

It’s a good piece, check it out.

Yay, it is now time for the links to your morning terror tease.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: View from space: Toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie | Water | EarthSky Yuk…check out the green sludge that can be seen from space.

The green plumes shown in these images is the worst algae bloom North America’s Lake Erie has experienced in decades. The bloom is primarily microcystis aeruginosa, an algae that is toxic to mammals, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. These images were acquired by the The Landsat-5 satellite in early October, 2011. The reasons for this year’s giant bloom are complex, say scientists, but might be related to a rainy spring and invasive mussels.

The Landsat-5 satellite acquired the top image on October 5, 2011. Vibrant green filaments extend out from the northern shore. Several days of calm winds and warm temperatures allowed the algae to gather on the surface. The bloom intensified after October 5, and by October 9—when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite acquired the lower image—the bloom covered much of the western basin.

Algae blooms were common in the lake’s shallow western basin in the 1950s and 60s. Phosphorus from farms, sewage, and industry fertilized the waters so that huge algae blooms developed year after year. The blooms subsided a bit starting in the 1970s, when regulations and improvements in agriculture and sewage treatment limited the amount of phosphorus that reached the lake.

Microcystis aeruginosa produces a liver toxin, microcystin, that commonly kills dogs swimming in infected water and causes skin irritation for people. Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, measured 50 times more microcystin in Lake Erie in the summer of 2011 than the World Health Organization recommends for safe recreation.

Ewww…taking a dip in that lake…makes me sick just thinking about it. One thing though…who would go swimming in Lake Erie in the first place? Isn’t it one of the most polluted bodies of water within the US? Didn’t catch on fire back in the day because of all the chemicals dumped in the water?

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  Just a note, it ain’t that easy…check out this image

Great white sharks

Great white sharks are a protected species in Australia. Photograph: Brandon Cole

I was planning on using the Guardian article that picture is from but there has been a third fatality since that article was published Saturday morning. Diver killed by great white in third fatal attack in weeks

A great white shark killed an American diver yesterday in the third fatal shark attack in recent weeks off the coast of Western Australia.

The state government has promised to hunt the killer and is considering more aircraft surveillance off west-coast beaches. Australia averages fewer than two fatal shark attacks a year.

Truly frightening stuff…talk about needing a bigger boat!

Well that is it for your Sunday Morning Reads, catch y’all later in the comments!


SDB Evening News Reads for 102011: Gaddafi is dead…but what else is going on in Africa?

Good Evening

Okay, so the big news, and I mean big news because it is all I am seeing on CNN..Gaddafi is dead. There is even video to prove it. Let the celebrations begin…or continue.  But there is a lot of other “stuff” going on in Africa, and it should not get drowned out by the Libya story…

So today’s evening news reads post is going to be link heavy, and hopefully will draw some attention to another battle going on in Africa today.

We have seen the reports on Obama’s decision to send 100 troops in a consultant capacity to Uganda. Well, Kenya has worked towards a war involving a Somali terrorist group sympathetic with al Qaeda and it looks like the US was caught off guard.

Kenya Reportedly Didn’t Warn U.S. of Somalia Incursion – NYTimes.com

As fierce fighting spread to new areas of Somalia on Thursday, American officials said they had been taken by surprise by Kenya’s recent march into Somalia to battle Islamist militants.

Kenya is one of the closest American allies in Africa, frequently cooperating on military and intelligence issues, and American officials have branded Islamist militants in Somalia a serious threat to the United States.

But Kenya’s sudden incursion into Somalia over the weekend caught the United States “on its heels,” one American official said Thursday. A former American official with experience in Africa said Kenyan officers had given their American counterparts “zero” information before the offensive started.

That seems real hard to believe, that the  Kenya aggression towards Somalia was a surprise. Don’t forget the tensions on the Kenya/Somali border…and the empty refugee camps on Kenya’s land.

More on refugee and aid problems in a bit…I want to stick with Kenya’s military actions in Somalia.

Kenya Faces Somalia Quagmire After U.S., Ethiopian Failures – Businessweek

Kenya’s military drive into neighboring Somalia to thwart attacks by the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab risks ending like previous interventions by the U.S. and Ethiopia — in retreat and failure.

While Kenya’s well-equipped army has been able to advance into southern Somalia, it may not be able to withstand attacks by a determined guerrilla force, according to Thomas Cargill, assistant head of the Africa Program at the London-based international-affairs institute Chatham House, who called it Kenya’s first foreign intervention.

“The problem comes with a counter-insurgency, that once you are there and become a target, do you have the skills to counter the increasing attacks against you?” he said by phone yesterday. “On that score, I think the Kenyan military is fairly untried.”

On October 16th, Kenyan soldiers entered Somalia after the kidnapping of tourist and Spanish aid workers in Kenya. Kenyan officials put the blame on al-Shabaab, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

The Kenyans and forces allied to Somalia’s western-backed transitional government secured the towns of Tabda and Afmadow, which is which is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the Kenyan border, Chirchir said. They have killed 75 al-Shabaab militants since the operation began, the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper reported today, without citing anyone.

“My understanding is that they have, at most, 2,000 troops they are trying to drive through to Kismayo,” Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director at the Ansari Africa Center of the Washington- based Atlantic Council, said in a phone interview yesterday. “I don’t think it’s feasible that they can get very far into Somalia, because 2,000 troops just aren’t enough.”

There have been violent attacks in this war-torn area for years, remember Black Hawk Down?

But the view that Kenya is taking a chance at entrenching itself in another quagmire is not the only thing working its way through the op/ed sections of African media news outlets.

Kenya must not miscalculate war  – Opinion & Analysis |businessdailyafrica.com

If, as some commentators have claimed, Kenya has taken a self-defence action in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, it has to inform the UN.

Article 51 says that such measures have to be immediately reported to the Security Council and “shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council … to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Whether the action was taken under Article 51 or not, it is crucial that the Kenyan government defines clearly its primary goal and the strategy for attaining it.

The best goal in war should be to protect people, attain peace, enhance the rule of law, and preserve national institutions and values.

If the Kenya government’s main goal is to deter al Shabaab from threatening citizens and tourists, it will design a strategy and tactics that are consistent with it.

However, if the government’s goal is to defeat the group and deny it any territorial base in Somalia, its commitments must be long-term, and its strategies, tactics and resources have to reflect a long-haul involvement in Somalia’s civil war.

This would require the government to explain what a victory over al Shabaab would mean.

There are concerns that Kenya’s move may give al Shabaab more al Qaeda recruiting chances…

Without clear plans on how long Kenya’s troops will remain in Somalia, the recent rhetoric from politicians and senior civil servants that Kenya plans to go the whole way to Kismayu and deny al Shabaab any territorial base in Somalia smacks of miscalculations.

Any sustainable strategy against al-Shabaab ought to take into consideration the fact that this organisation is not popular in Somalia, but if the Kenyan military antagonises innocent Somalis in the process of chasing al-Shabaab, it might inadvertently recruit more supporters for the terrorist group.

Give those three articles a read, they give plenty of information.

For more on the escalating tensions between Al-Shaabab and both countries of Somalia and Kenya: Al-Shabab Fuels Tensions Between Kenya, Somalia | Africa | English

And for an article about the recent kidnapping of Spanish aid workers: Gunmen kidnap two Spanish aid workers from Kenyan camp | Reuters

The dangers foreign aid workers face everyday are truly frightening. This next article from Der Spiegel brings that point home: Development Aid in Afghanistan: The Country Where Hope Goes to Die – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International

Photo Gallery: Life and Suffering in Afghanistan
Photos
AFP

Western aid workers have long been deeply involved in Afghanistan, putting their lives at risk and fighting for funding back home. Still, they have accomplished little or have seen much of their work destroyed. Many will be leaving the country in disappointment.

Hanz Sayami discusses the work he did in Afghanistan in a halting voice. He talks about the school for boys that he built six years ago in Char Gul Tepa, a town in the northern part of Kunduz province, after painstakingly gathering funding. “The place means ‘Four Flower Hill,'” he says. A girl’s school went up a year later there, though this time with the help of German development aid funds. Everything was going well, with Sayami and his assistants paying regular visits to the schools.

But, a few months ago, they dissolved their “Schools for Afghanistan” initiative. “The situation on the ground doesn’t allow us to visit the projects anymore,” Sayami says. “So we can no longer ask donors in good conscience for money because we can’t monitor expenditures in person.”

Moving on to some items in the news here in the US, here are some links of interest, as I said this post was going to be link heavy….

Um … What? | Talking Points Memo

AP reports that South Carolina’s new voter ID law is hitting African-American the hardest. Top GOP political strategist says, Awesome!

Three Faces of Racial Profiling: Immigrants are the Latest Victims » Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

Alabama, scarred by a long history of civil rights struggles, became the first state where a state-sanctioned racial profiling law has gone into effect, after attempts to block it in court were unsuccessful. This newly legalized racial profiling of Latinos includes those who are lawfully present in the U.S., like taxi driver Cineo Gonzales. When Gonzales questioned why his first grade daughter, who was born in Alabama, was singled out at school and given information about H.B. 56, he was told by a school official that that the document was handed out to “all children who aren’t from here.”

Alabama is the latest in a string of states to follow Arizona’s lead by passing laws sanctioning the use of racial profiling. Since S.B. 1070 passed in Arizona last year, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Utah and Alabama have all joined the ranks of the “show me your papers” states, even though only Alabama’s law has gone into effect. These states are bent on forcing Latinos and immigrants out of their states by creating an unbearably hostile environment. These unconstitutional laws discriminate on the basis of race and national origin, and sweep in U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and other people lawfully in the U.S.

The problem of racial profiling of immigrants is not limited to the states. The Obama administration’s federal immigration enforcement system includes two programs that are fraught with civil rights problems.

Read more about The 287(g) program and  Secure Communities program, aka S-COMM, at the link.

CLASS Act’s demise is mourned by backers – Brett Norman – POLITICO.com

The death of health reform’s long-term care insurance program was so unceremonious that its supporters — among the Obama administration’s closest allies on health issues — got about 30 minutes’ notice of the funeral.

On Friday afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that said there was “no viable path forward” to implementing the CLASS Act, a major — if little-advertised — piece of the administration’s signature Affordable Care Act.

The news was a slap in the face to CLASS advocates, who knew a report was imminent but did not suspect it would be a death certificate.

Hmmmm, it was only a matter of time before Obama through Ted Kennedy under a bus…Kennedy was one of the biggest supporters of the CLASS Act, it was a priority he had worked on for years.

No surprise huh? Like this little nugget from Rolling Stone: Obama Solicits Designers to Work – Unpaid – on … Jobs Poster | Tim Dickinson | Rolling Stone

The Obama campaign has more than $60 million cash on hand. In an economy this bad, you’d think a presidential campaign that flush would be happy to pay good money for a talented designer to create a campaign poster.

But the folks at Obama campaign have taken a page from the Arianna Huffington book of economic exploitation and called on “artists across the country” to create a poster … for free.

And here’s the kicker. It’s a jobs poster.

Here are some outrageous updates in the new Big Ass Bank immunity deal…I must admit I missed this one big time…so here is the link to Emptywheel, go and read it all: Obama’s “Get Out of Jail for Helping 1.36% Card” for Banksters | emptywheel

I am sticking with the Obama busting for one more link. I posted it today in the comments, but it should be put up front. h/t to Susie Madrak: What Happens if Obama Can’t Fill Judicial Vacancies?

Well, I will tell you what will happen…stuff like this  and this will end up getting passed, and when it gets challenged in court…the court will uphold these anti-women laws and give the women in America a big kick in the ass…and send them tumbling off the PLUB cliff.

This next link is not encouraging at all…it deals with Occupy Baltimore, and seems to be a legitimate concern for women who participate in the Occupy protest.  Occupy Baltimore group discourages reporting rape, health advocates say – Baltimore Sun

Efforts by the Occupy Baltimore protest group to evolve into a self-contained, self-governing community have erupted into controversy with the distribution of a pamphlet that victim advocates and health workers fear discourages victims of sexual assaults from contacting police.

The pamphlet says that members of the protest group who believe they are victims or who suspect sexual abuse “are encouraged to immediately report the incident to the Security Committee,” which will investigate and “supply the abuser with counseling resources.”

The directive also says, in part, “Though we do not encourage the involvement of the police in our community, the survivor has every right, and the support of Occupy Baltimore, to report the abuse to the appropriate authorities.”

Despite this caveat, the heads of three rape crisis centers and a nurse who runs the forensic division at Mercy Medical Center called the message about not involving police dangerous. They said it contains erroneous information that could undermine efforts to convince victims to properly report crimes and get the counseling they need.

“It might actually passively prevent someone from seeking justice,” said Jacqueline Robarge, the executive director of Power Inside, a nonprofit support group that helps women who have been victimized.

All Occupy organizers need to be vocal against abuse of any form at the protest, and steps must be taken to insure the safety of the protesters, especially from predators who will use the protest for their own gains.

Which leads to the last link today. Boston Boomer had a most excellent post about the FBI’s archaic definition of rape..today in HuffPo there is an article that reports on the steps going forward in changing the Bureau’s definition of rape. FBI’s Definition Of Rape Is Outdated And Narrow, Agency Panel Concludes

Currently, the FBI defines rape as the “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

This definition is narrower than the one used by many police departments around the country, and women’s rights advocates say it leads to the under-counting of thousands of sexual assaults each year.

On Tuesday, an FBI panel composed of outside experts from criminal justice agencies and national security agencies voted to broaden the federal government’s definition.

The new definition would take out the requirement that the sexual assault be “forcible,” remove the restriction that the attack be toward a woman and include non-vaginal/penile rape and rape by a blood relative.

The panel’s recommended definition reads: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

So what are y’all reading about tonight. We had a big cold front come through Banjoland last night, and it is officially hot chocolate season!