Friday Reads: The Medium isn’t the Message

martha-gellhornGood Morning!

I’ve been looking at media stories this week.  That includes both traditional and nontraditional forms.  The internet continues to influence the release of news and how news is made and reported. Several topics really caught my eye.  The first is the ease with which we’re seeing documentation of Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations on places he’s been and news stories he covered.  It seems like one exaggeration/lie after another is popping up from all kinds of places since David Corn of Mother Jones found out that O’Reilly was never near a battlefield during the Falklands War despite the stories O’Reilly tells.  Here’s some of the latest on the life and times of the blustery, on line person who really is a serial liar.

Former colleagues of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host whose tales of past reporting exploits are facing renewed scrutiny, have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

Six people who covered the riots with O’Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O’Reilly has claimed, “concrete was raining down on us” and “we were attacked by protesters”.

Several members of the team suggested that O’Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble.

Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O’Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O’Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: “Don’t you know who I am?”

O’Reilly, 65, is one of the most influential figures in American broadcasting and publishing. He is paid a reported $20m a year to host his show, the O’Reilly Factor, which consistently ranks among the most-watched current affairs programs in US cable TV. He has also authored several bestselling books and memoirs.

He has for several days been defending himself against accusations that he inflated his recollections of reporting from Argentina at the end of the Falklands war as a young correspondent for CBS News. The Guardian found he had told differing versions of an apparent encounter at gunpoint with Argentinian forces.

He has also been accused of lying in one of his books about being present at the scene when a CIA source, who had allegedly been linked to the assassination of President John F Kennedy, killed himself in 1977.

imagesXS1GNOQHFox News and Holt–publisher of O’Reilly’s book on Kennedy–have stood firmly by their man. O’Reilly’s show has never much been about facts any way as delivering anger to a key republican base.  This would seem hard to ignore.  Additionally, O’Reilly has actually threatened reporters.  Every one expected the name calling but it’s gone way beyond that now. How can Fox stand behind an on air personality that lies and threatens journalists?

As the controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly and his war reporting experiences continues to heat up, with more allegations coming out each day, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow wonders how much longer Fox News can stand by the host.

On Wednesday evening, Maddow spoke with Mother Jones author David Corn, one of the journalists who wrote the original report revealing the inaccuracies in O’Reilly’s story. O’Reilly subsequently called Corn “a liar” and said that he deserves to be put in “the kill zone.” On Tuesday, the Fox News host threatened a New York Times reporter covering the scandal: “I am coming after you with everything I have,” O’Reilly said.

“Apparently, they [Fox News] think it’s proper for one journalist to call another one names,” Corn told Maddow. “Not that it scares me off the story, but I have family and I have friends who are concerned about me now.”

Corn called the threats “highly inappropriate” and noted that O’Reilly still has not disproven “a single fact” from his piece.

Maddow said that after his threats to Corn and the Times’ reporter, it is “untenable” for Fox News to stand by him.

“They employ a lot of journalists, including those who work in risky situations,” she said. “Fox is a good place to work for journalists.”

Maddow made a similar point on her show one night earlier, questioning what O’Reilly’s behavior will do to Fox News’ “work environment” and to the “real reporters” that work there

Why on earth do news personalities like O’Reilly and Brian Williams lie when their jobs should be all about integrity? photogsDo they all yearn to be seen as Walter Cronkite?  Do their memories and egos just run amok?

News in America has increasingly become infotainmenthalf factual information about the world’s events, half dazzling production and splashy narratives. Simultaneously, fewer and fewer Americans have ever seen battle; most of us only know war from what we see in film and television. So war itself becomes difficult to distinguish from entertainment. American Sniper, with its ambiguous moral commitments, is now the highest grossing American war film of all time, adjusted for inflation. Unlike popular war films about battles long past, American Sniper is set during the Iraq war, the effects of which are only beginning to ripple across our culture. Moreover, its story allegedly reflects the true-life story of its central character, sniper Chris Kyle. It’s somewhat true, like the news, but with a better script and pretty actors.

Which makes it hard for the news to keep up, even when you’re as handsome as Brian Williams. Unlike most cinematic retellings of wars, actual wars are multifaceted, complicated, anti-climactic, and grim. When war is already a successful subject in mainstream cinema, news purveyors whose professions have become increasingly akin to entertainment are shrewd to play up war stories in relaying the narrative of the day. The trouble is that shrewdness, for some news professionals, has morphed into a calculated consideration of the entertainment value of war stories, regardless of their factuality.

Maybe Williams and O’Reilly are merely victims of the fallible human brain. Or maybe that hunger to entertainand, perhaps, for a touch of gloryoverwhelmed their professional duty to the facts. What, after all, is more exciting than a war story in which you’re the star.

imagesH6SL6G62The other story I’ve followed has been yet another installment of “Is blogging dead?”  These are articles that I’ve seen a lot of since around three years ago. I guess the collapse of the Andrew Sullivan experiment has brought on another deluge.  The link explores the musings of bloggers from “The Golden Age” which seems an odd way to describe a period of maybe 5 years.  Any way, there are a few bloggers with opinions both ways.  I’ve followed a few of the links including this one from fellow economist/blogger Noah Smith.

In a nutshell, what is dying is the idea of the blog as a news source. In the old days, as a reader, you would have a favorite blogger, who would write many frequent posts throughout the day. That would be your main news source, your portal to current events. Often the post would have a slight bit of commentary or reaction. Basically, you got to hear the world narrated through the voice of someone you liked. For me, those narrators were University of California, Berkeley, economist Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, now at Vox. For many, it was Sullivan.

Twitter has basically killed that. With a Twitter feed you can integrate a bunch of different narrators into a single, flowing newsreel. It turns out that most of the micro-commentary that used to accompany a blog post can be squeezed into one or two tweets.

But the thing about micro-blogging is that, well, it’s micro. If you look at the blogs that Klein lists as the future (and there are many, many more), you will see that they all do posts that are about the length of a news article. That’s something Twitter complements, but can’t replicate.

However, that doesn’t mean that blog posts are now just news articles freed from the tyranny of professional editors. With blogs, you can do something that news can’t easily do — you can carry on a conversation.

imagesN5QQ6TZYI have to admit that I have mixed feelings about those declaring blogging to be the refuge of 40 year olds with kids or that nothing relevant happens on blogs these days. Maybe it’s because many of my friends are bloggers. But, I would like to point out that Lamar White–a blogging law student–broke two huge stories in the last year. The first was the shoddy situation with moonlight Congressman–now Senator–Double Bill Cassiday. The LSU med center just audited  whitewashed its findings and Lamar is still on top of it.  His second piece connecting Congressman Steve Scalise to the local white supremacists and David Duke nearly cost Scalise a leadership position.  Indeed, bloggers can frequently do good local investigations which is something local and national media rarely fund any more.

I would agree that blogging is changing but then so are all forms of written communication as well as broadcast media. Chris Cilliza has another notion.

The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It’s not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me  an ever-shrinking populace  a “blog” is simply a publishing medium. It’s a way to put content on the Internet  usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing  opinionated, snarky  that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake.

Well, we’re still standing–or sitting as the case may be–while sharing information with each other. We’ve all come a long way since we were booted from various communities for being loyal to Hillary back in 2008. I think there will always be a place for alternative voices. I say this as a former writer of an underground “newspaper”–The Aardvark–from way back in the day.  The medium evolves. The writer’s voice and need to write carries on.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: NY Underground Library and GOP Aboveground Dumbassery

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole  Found on undergroundnewyorkpubliclibrary.com

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole
Found on undergroundnewyorkpubliclibrary.com

Good Morning

Well, perhaps “dumbassery” is being a little forgiving, since dumbass is not what I would call the two GOP examples below…more like assholes, yeah that is it.

But I don’t think “assholery” would have passed as part of the title so, there it is.

This tweet from CPAC should set the mood…

Aaaaand it goes down from there…one person who should be in attendance at that minority seminar: Conservative leader caught on live mic: ‘The Jews are the problem’ | The Raw Story

The sun also risesLt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (retired), the executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council, was caught on a “hot mic” on Thursday joking that “the Jews are the problem” to an Israeli reporter and pitching his theory about President Barack Obama using “subliminal messages” to signal support for al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, in audio posted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Friday.

“If you understand anything about Islam, there are subliminal messages,” Boykin can be heard saying. “His message, really, I believe was, ‘I understand you, and I support you.’”

Boykin’s remarks were captured after an online broadcast of a panel at the National Security Action Summit. The SPLC reported that the event is held as a counter to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and features speakers who, like Boykin, have not been allowed to participate there.

(Emphasis mine.) Guess even CPAC has some kind of standards.

Though the panel’s video feed shut down, the audio continued broadcasting, enabling Boykin to be heard as he argued that, as a result of the “messages,” al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood saw that “that they have a president that identifies with them, that has been supportive of them inside the United States and is unwilling to go against them.”

Politics, by Aristotle

Politics, by Aristotle

According to the SPLC, Boykin was then approached by someone about doing an interview with Henry Schwartz, a reporter for Israel National News, described as a “right-wing” publication.

“The Jews are the problem,” Boykin can be heard saying. “The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” An unidentified person responds, “I know, I know, that’s why we’re trying to fix everything.”

The event’s organizer, Frank Gaffney, has accused CPAC’s organizers, the American Conservative Union, of having ties to the Brotherhood.

I don’t know, this guy Boykin must be best friends with Mel Gibson?

Video at the link.

ae13b01b6e12ff25d414621f27d11012After something like that, we need to laugh. So take a look at this asshole, who gets the Aasif Mandvi treatment: ‘Fox Business’ Commentator Tells ‘Daily Show’ Correspondent, ‘If You’re Poor, Stop Being Poor’

After watching Aasif Mandvi’s segment on Thursday’s “Daily Show,” two things are clear: 1) America has the greatest healthcare system in the world (if 37th place is considered the greatest), and 2) some people shouldn’t do interviews with “Daily Show” correspondents.

Case in point, “Fox Business” commentator and NYSE Euronext Managing Director Todd Wilemon has a couple of jaw-dropping moments in this interview about “third world” healthcare conditions in Knoxville, Tennessee, not the least of which is his statement right at the end: “If you’re poor, stop being poor.”

Watch the clip above, and keep an eye out for one of the more awkward pauses in “Daily Show” history.

d6a9e3c9b62fb551c524a5ed16bf2c0fI wish I could embed the video, so please go and watch it in full. It is one of the best things Aasif has done on the show.

You can also see the video here: Third World Health Care – Knoxville, Tennessee Edition – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 03/06/14 – Video Clip | Comedy Central

By the way, pictures for today are from the blog Underground New York Public Library…which is not affiliated by the New York Public Library.

The Underground New York Public Library is a visual library featuring the Reading-Riders of the NYC subways.

The photos come together as a visual library. This library freely lends out a reminder that we’re capable of traveling to great depths within ourselves and as a whole.

99e203208cf3f7fe5b77338200433041The blog work is done by Ourit Ben-Haim who says he:

…make the pictures and the posts. I’m fascinated by how we apply ourselves to stories and discourse. In so doing, we shape who we understand ourselves to be.

What a neat site to lose yourself in…enjoy it.

On Friday, Dak had a fabulous post about New Orleans…well, this next link is about the latest fashion “craze” is a perfect complement. In fact, I am sure those folks singing the traditional ‘shallow water, your mama,’ song were wearing the #normcore look and Dak must see the “mallclothes”  “’90s-era dads” “anonymous” style as these young urbanites look for kale in that “Chocolate City.” (Ugh…yeah, I could not help myself. 10 years ago, wow.)

4b28b9667fa6f80f8bca0343bad70d63What is #normcore and Why Has it Taken Over the Internet?

You may have noticed a new hashtag invading the internet this week: #normcore. It has everyone dusting off their stonewashed jeans and athletic socks and hopping on the bandwagon.

But just what is normcore exactly? In short: it’s a trend of young urbanites dressing like bland ’90s-era dads. Articles of clothing involved include athletic shorts, New Balance sneakers and fleece zip-ups. Basically, anything that will allow you to stand out by looking anonymous.

Nothing is more sexy than looking like a 90’s dad.

Why is normcore a thing? It seems to be a way for adherents to counteract stereotypes by dressing mundanely in order to stand out. Theories abound regarding why millennials are attracted to the trend, but the prevailing theory suggests that it’s a way for them to reject the idea of “buying in” to a particular style.

Basically, dressing like your parents did 20 years ago is cooler than shelling out money to assume another identity. Of course, it only works if you’re doing it on purpose.

Seriously, look at the tweets from this fashion twitter The Cut New York Magazine:

Here is the actual article: Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion – The Cut

K-HOLE describes normcore as a theory rather than a look; but in practice, the contemporary normcore styles I’ve seen have their clear aesthetic precedent in the nineties. The editorials in Hot and Cool look a lot like Corinne Day styling newcomer Kate Moss in Birkenstocks in 1990, or like Art Club 2000’s appropriation of madras from the Gap, like grunge-lite and Calvin Klein minimalism. But while (in their original incarnation) those styles reflected anxiety around “selling out,” today’s version is more ambivalent toward its market reality. Normcore isn’t about rebelling against or giving into the status quo; it’s about letting go of the need to look distinctive, to make time for something new.

The demographic leading the normcore trend is, by and large, Western Millennials and digital natives. Stylist-editors like Hot and Cool’s Alice Goddard and Garmento’s Jeremy Lewis are children of the nineties, teens of the aughts. The aesthetic return to styles they would’ve worn as kids reads like a reset button—going back to a time before adolescence, before we learned to differentiate identity through dress. The Internet and globalization have challenged the myth of individuality (we are all one in 7 billion), while making connecting with others easier than ever. Normcore is a blank slate and open mind—it’s a look designed to play well with others.

And what is more disgusting? Check out the price of these shorts…and t-shirt.

Dolce & Gabbana Regular-Fit Washed-Denim ShortsDolce & Gabbana – Regular-Fit Washed-Denim Shorts | MR PORTER

$455

Dolce & Gabbana nods to vintage summer style with these washed-denim shorts, treated for an aged appearance. This pair is constructed in Italy for a laid-back fit and broken-in feel.

Sunspel – Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt | MR PORTER

$115Sunspel Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

The secret to Sunspel‘s superb T-shirts is in the cotton: fine, long-staple yarns are used to create a soft and durable jersey that will hold its shape after repeated wear and washing. This version, striped in blue, grey and white, is a reliable choice that will remain stylish for years to come. Add it to your weekend repertoire as a go-to for relaxed days off.

What was that last sentence from The Cut?

Normcore is a blank slate and open mind…

Blank slate and blank mind. Well, all I got to say to that is, “Shallow water, Yo Mama”.

On the left shes reading "We the People: An Introduction to American Politics," by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir. On the right shes reading "Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships," by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.

On the left shes reading “We the People: An Introduction to American Politics,” by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir. On the right shes reading “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships,” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.

In addition to that ridiculous fashion trend of Normcore, did you see this sad story from Michigan? Woman’s car payments hid her death for 6 years, body found mummified in backseat of car

For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid and life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan.

Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual.

The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself.

One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy.

At some point, her bank account ran dry.

The bills stopped being paid.

And guess what happened then…

After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes.

Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house.

Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.

The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the backseat of her car, parked in the garage.

The key was halfway in the ignition.

Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago.

They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

064fbd70bb03ff55a62748051b98d7adThere is so many things wrong with this…on so many levels. Fuck it is disturbing!!!

The woman, who authorities aren’t identifying until they’ve informed her family, paid her bills from her bank account through auto-pay, according to McCabe.

Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the dead woman, describing her as in her 40s and of German descent.

“She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” neighbor Caitlyn Talbot told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Talbot said she wasn’t aware of anyone having seen the woman, who traveled a lot, in about six years.

“She was probably there for a couple of days, then she’d leave for a week, then she’d come back. Then she’d leave for a month and come back,” Talbot said.

McCabe says neighbors chalked up the woman’s absences to her returning to Germany for long periods of time.

4b5638cc3bf67e7bb627826b64785928Despite years without a living owner, the house was never broken into, he said.

Authorities told WXYZ that the house appears to have black mold inside it, and that detectives entered the building Thursday wearing hazardous material suits.

The mail never piled up, the cops came by the house once back in 2007 when one neighbor said she was not seen for a little while, but when they checked the front door, no sign of foul play so they left…and they never went back.

It seems completely unimaginable to me, how alone, for no one to miss her?

I am going to move on to something else. Prison. (talk about alone)

05e694781a80c8fab5fb6dc61c09c3a7Specifically Alcatraz.

A&M’s Alcatraz research continues to reveal underground forts, tunnels – Houston Chronicle

What started as repair of a tripping hazard at Alcatraz Island led to research that is revealing an old network of underground tunnels and fortifications.

Early results appear to indicate that a “caponier,” or part of an original fortified wall, still lies buried underground on the notorious island in San Francisco Bay.

More at the link…

And, another article on U.S. prisons seen through the eyes of ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ | Reuters

The pages are brown, faded and stained, but the handwriting is meticulous and the words detail a 150-year history of the U.S. prison system through the eyes of one of its most famous inmates.

To Build a Fire and Other Stories, by Jack London

To Build a Fire and Other Stories, by Jack London

Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz for his painstaking study of birds while in federal prison, wrote a four-part book about brutality, sex, bribery and what he saw as the monumental failure of prisons to rehabilitate inmates.

Part I “Looking Outward, A Voice from the Grave,” has recently been published in E-book form.

Stroud’s book about prison life, totaling more than 2,000 pages, languished in a basement long after his death in 1963, with publishers concerned about libel balking at a book that named brutal guards and supposedly on-the-take wardens.

“To sadistic-minded persons, helplessness is always an invitation to cruelty,” Stroud wrote.

The stacks of manuscripts stored at Stroud’s former lawyer’s house in Springfield, Missouri, have been converted into the book “Looking Outward: A History of the U.S. Prison System from Colonial Times to the Formation of the Bureau Prisons.”

That should be interesting…

One more story on prison life, but this is from a different vantage point…the camera lens: Family historians can now view Victorian criminal records online – Telegraph

Records of more than 67,000 Victorian criminals, detailing crimes ranging from petty theft and drunkenness to arson and murder, are published online for the first time today.
Records of more than 67,000 Victorian criminals, detailing crimes ranging from petty theft and drunkenness to arson and murder, are published online for the first time today.

Family history website Ancestry.co.uk said its collection also tells the stories of local peacemakers of the time, including jury candidates and members of the local militia.

The Dorset, England Prison Admission and Discharge Registers 1782-1901 and Dorset, England, Calendar of Prisoners 1854-1904 also includes mug shots of 19th century convicts.

The records include the criminal’s name, place and date of conviction, sentence, physical description and details of previous crimes.

The Places That Scare You A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

The Places That Scare You A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

Criminals listed include Samuel Baker, aged 73, who was sentenced to nine months hard labour after breaking into a house to steal two brushes, some vests, and a pair of stockings in 1893; Charles Wood, an unemployed local drunk who was sentenced to one month in prison for “refusing to quit the beer-house” in 1872, and 18-year-old George Pill, who stole a donkey from a neighbour in 1894, resulting in a punishment of six weeks hard labour.

Cool innit?

But crimes during the Victorian Age is not the only historical thing I’ve got for you this morning, oh yes, I am getting medieval on your asses today:  How to defraud your lord on the medieval manor

In the 1260s, Robert Carpenter, a freehold farmer and former bailiff living on the Isle of Wight, wrote up a formulary – a collection of form letters and legal texts that would be useful for local administration. In the middle of these texts, however, he added detailed instructions on six ways you could commit fraud.

1167a25937f70ac9cd9410242f64d818This work has been translated and analyzed by Martha Carlin in her article ‘Cheating the Boss: Robert Carpenter’s Embezzlement Instructions (1261×1268) and Employee Fraud in Medieval England’. Carpenter does not provide any introduction to these texts, nor does he give a hint on why he decided to include it in this work. Some scholars suggest he was bragging about his past exploits, others that he wrote it to warn his readers of ways they could be defrauded. Carlin adds another possibility – that it was “simply as a form of wry recollection or humour with which to entertain himself and his intimates.”

Give those “hints” a read through…I love it!

on the left he’s reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Last Straw, by Jeff Kinney. on the right he’s reading Warriors, by Erin Hunter.

on the left he’s reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Last Straw, by Jeff Kinney. on the right he’s reading Warriors, by Erin Hunter.

Here is something that should be criminal: Group warns almost 500 products contain chemical found in yoga mats – CBS News

Subway made news earlier in February when the sandwich chain announced it was removing a chemical called azodicarbonamide (ADA), which is used to make yoga mats, from North American formulations of bread. But now, a consumer advocacy group is warning people that almost 500 more food items on the market have this same compound.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a list Thursday of all the foods that have listed ADA as an ingredient. Large companies like Ball Park, Country Hearth, Jimmy Dean, Kroger, Little Debbie, Marie Callendar’s, Pillsbury, White Castle and Wonder are just a fraction of the 130 brands that used the chemical in their products. Most of the items are bread, croutons, pre-made sandwiches and snacks.

Nothing is more appetizing than yoga mats.

ADA is used to bleach flour and help make dough stronger and more rubbery. The Food and Drug Administration currently approved the use of the chemical as long as it is used in quantities less than 0.0045 percent of the weight of the flour used.

The Price of Motherhood Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued, by Ann Crittenden

The Price of Motherhood Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued, by Ann Crittenden

But, the World Health Organization raised concerns about the compound. Case reports have shown that some workers who come in contact with the product on a regular basis have developed asthma, respiratory symptoms and skin problems. Very few studies have been done on ADA, but animal research has shown that if the compound is inhaled or consumed it tends to not be absorbed and is easily eliminated with the body’s waste.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest pointed out that ADA forms semicarbazide and urethane when baked, and both have been linked to cancers in mice. They have called for the FDA to ban the chemical since many other breads do not use the compound.

More info at the link…along with a link to the list of products that use ADA.

Last link for you is from Wisconsin Public Radio and includes a story on Weaving, in Afghanistan:

Image:maiaibing2000 Via:Flickr Creative CommonsNot every story about Afghanistan involves guns and soldiers.  We see the country through art, poetry and games – from the ancient sport of Buzkashi to Afghanistan’s famous hand-woven carpets. Also, Charles Yu on living safely in a science fictional universe.

“Buzkashi Boys” – Sam French

The film “Buzkashi Boys” is a coming of age story set in Afghanistan’s national sport, Buzkashi. It’s a game of horse polo played with a dead goat instead of a ball. Plus, a coda from novelist Khaled Hosseini.

Afghan Carpets – Anna Badkhen

Los Hijos Del Tiempo, by Ana Colchero

Los Hijos Del Tiempo, by Ana Colchero

Anna Badkhen spent a year in the remote Afghan village of Oqa. She got to know the master weavers, who make some of the world’s most beautiful carpets.

Landay Poetry – Eliza Griswold

Eliza Griswold went to the Pashtun region of Afghanistan to gather landay poems – a tradition of secret poems spoken by Pashtun women.

Sonic Sidebar: Khaled Hosseini’s “Mountains”

Afghan-born writer Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner,” reads from his latest novel, “And the Mountains Echoed.”

8f3b98e8a2daa98ece7b0daef27df59cBookMark: Hanan Al-Shaykh

Hanan Al-Shaykh bookmarks “Season of Migration to the North” by Tayeb Salih.

On Our Minds: Science Fictional Universe

Charles Yu on quantum parenting, time travel and other science fictional paradoxes. Yu is the author of the acclaimed novel “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.”

“The Stranger Beside Me,” by Ann Rule via UNYPL

“The Stranger Beside Me,” by Ann Rule via UNYPL

So, I hope you enjoyed those links. Sorry that there are no “newsy” news updates for you today. Please use the comment section below to add anything you find newsworthy…Have a wonderful day.


Evening News Reads: The Court Jester

Artwork from one of King Henry VIII book of animal illustrations.

Artwork from one of King Henry VIII book of animal illustrations.

 

Good Evening

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. accuses currency exchange of laundering $6 billion | Reuters

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?

15 Freight Train Cars Derail in Maryland, One Person Injured – ABC News

PHOTO: A fire burns at the site of a CSX freight train derailment, May 28, 2013, in White Marsh, Md., where fire officials say the train crashed into a trash truck, causing an explosion that rattled homes at least a half-mile away and collapsed nearby bui

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:

George Zimmerman returns to court for pretrial hearing – OrlandoSentinel.com

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:

Judge in Trayvon Martin Case Puts Limits on Defense – NYTimes.com

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.

Mr. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was killed in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012, by Mr. Zimmerman, who said he shot him in self-defense.

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.”

Commentary: Judge’s Decision in Trayvon Trial Sets the Stage | News | BET

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.


Thursday Reads: Crisis in Cyprus, The End of the “Creative Class” Dream, the Grand Betrayal, and Other News

coffee break

Good Morning!!

There’s quite a bit of news on the Cyprus crisis this morning. But first, last night Joe Weisenthal posted this assessment of how bad things had already gotten: In Just Days A Modern Economy Has Been Set Back 50 Years, And It May Never Be The Same Again. That’s a quote from Ciaran O’Hagan of Société Générale in Paris. Weisenthal writes:

According to reports, Cyprus will try again tomorrow to cobble together some kind of bank bailout bill that can pass parliament.

Cyprus needs to raise another 5.8 billion euros, which it could do from some combination of deposit taxes, Russian money, and pension nationalization.

None of the options are good, but until it’s done, banks will likely have to remain closed, a situation that can’t go on much longer.

This is a stunning turn of events for a modern Eurozone nation.

This morning, the news broke that the European Central Bank (ECB) has given Cyprus an ultimatum. Bloomberg reports:

The European Central Bank said it will cut Cypriot banks off from emergency funds after March 25 unless the Mediterranean island agrees on a bailout with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

“The Governing Council of the European Central Bank decided to maintain the current level of Emergency Liquidity Assistance, ELA, until Monday, 25 March 2013,” the Frankfurt- based ECB said in an e-mailed statement today. “Thereafter, ELA could only be considered if an EU/IMF program is in place that would ensure the solvency of the concerned banks.”

The Cypriot parliament this week rejected a proposed levy on bank deposits to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion), which euro-area finance ministers backed as a condition for the country’s bailout. A bank holiday in Cyprus has been extended to March 25, giving policy makers until Monday to find a compromise to prevent a collapse of the country’s banks.

“With this statement, the ECB put even more pressure on European finance ministers and the Cypriot government to come up with a deal,” said Juergen Michels, chief euro-area economist at Citigroup Inc. in London. “But we’ll have to see whether they’ll actually follow through with their threat if there’s no deal by Monday and policy makers decide to further extend the bank holiday.”

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My Reader….don’t touch my Google Reader! Open Thread

All day long….I have been pulling a “Bloom” and going nuts thinking about what Google has done to my RSS reader.

In my search for a replacement for an application I use and depend upon so greatly, I did find NewsBlur. It is a paid service that I would gladly pay to use, so far the site has been up and down with soooooo many new users trying to upload their G Reader data. I know it may not seem like much of an issue, but you may not realize just how much I use my RSS feeds to find articles and write my SkyD blog posts.

The argument around the web is that RSS is dead, Twitter is king for news alerts and following blogs. Bullshit. There is no way that Twitter can be substituted for a RSS feed in a reader. At least for people whose attention spans last longer than 140 characters.

Here are a few links for you this evening, I was surprised just how many journalists we follow and read here at Sky Dancing are feeling the same anger and resentment that I am right now.

Anyway, excuse me while I go sit in the corner and whisper to myself in true “Rainman” style…

Well….ah…course…you know….I gotta check my reader…must check my reader.

Google Reader, please don’t go — I need you to do my job — paidContent

Google Reader Terminal? – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Despite All My Rage, I’m Still Just a Rat in Google’s Cage

Google Reader: Why did everyone’s favorite RSS program die? What free Web service will be next? – Slate Magazine

And….if you are not outraged because of the death of Google Reader, then this next link will piss you off….and we all can be in a bad mood.

Fox station apologizes after celebrating Women’s Day with footage of boobs | The Raw Story

On at least two occasions on Wednesday, Fox Connecticut marked an event hosted by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women with B-roll of a woman in a low-cut top, but the shot was closely cropped to reveal only her breasts and cleavage.

“FOX CT apologizes for today’s file footage error,” the station tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. “We will continue to recognize great contributions of women in CT and around the world.”

In a statement, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women accused the news broadcast of objectifying women.

“We are appalled at the level of sexism this incident shows,” the statement said. It is an insult not only to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and to all who attended Women’s Day at the Capitol, which marked the PCSW’s 40-year battle against gender discrimination, but to women everywhere who are tired of being objectified.”

“Anyone who doubts the existence of the ‘war on women’ need look no further than Fox News. We invite the executives at Fox to ask about our Sexual Harassment Awareness and Prevention trainings, which would help them and their staff learn a little more about what goes on above a woman’s shoulders.”

This is an open thread…


Virginia Governor Backs Away from State Sanctioned Rape Bill

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

The Hill is reporting that the Virginia House of Delegates has passed their anti-abortion bill that apparently doesn’t include the mandated transvaginal ultrasound requirement. The state Senate has already passed a version of the bill.

According to Think Progress, Governor Bob McDonnell “publicly backtracked” from his previous position in support of the ultrasound requirement and asked for an amendment to the bill:

I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

But Think Progress notes that even requiring the less invasive ultrasound is still an attempt to intimidate women who need abortions.

…the ultrasound bill is still unnecessary. Studies have shown that viewing an ultrasound does not change a woman’s mind before an abortion, and the Guttmacher Institute reports that requiring an abortion only adds to the cost of an abortion. “Since routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion,” the group writes.

According to NBC news, the “watering down” of the ultrasound requirement “likely dooms the measure.”

The amended bill now returns to the Senate where its sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, said she will strike the legislation.

The House action came moments after McDonnell — facing outrage from women and appeals from GOP moderates — announced he was opposing the original bill requiring vaginal probes.

RH Reality Check calls it a “partial victory.” Naturally, they’re a bit more harsh than some of the corporation media outlets:

Today, after a week of media coverage of a bill mandating that women seeking abortion undergo medically unnecessary state-sanctioned trans-vaginal ultrasounds, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is now backing down. A little.

Over the past year, Virginia has been a “leader” in passing laws to harass and intimidate abortion providers and patients. Recently, for example, and despite widespread condemnation by the public health and medical communities, McDonnell signed into law regulations for clinics providing abortion care intended to do nothing other than shut them down. In this instance, medical evidence meant… well… nothing to him.

Now, however, angling for a role as Vice President in the 2012 election, watching the backlash against the far right’s efforts to politicize women’s health, and after a week of intense media scrutiny of a plan to mandate trans-vaginal ultrasounds (including by RH Reality Check) medical evidence has suddenly become very, very important to the governor.

Thanks to the overwhelming negative reaction to this outrageous bill in the blogosphere and the quick action of Virginia women in organizing their silent protest at the Virginia statehouse, we appear to have won a small battle in the war against women.


Sunday Reads: Honestly, and I am being honest here…

Ron Paul is an ass.

Perhaps I should word that a bit differently…Ron Paul is a jackass…if you prefer.

Hell, ass is used in the bible so the fundies shouldn’t have a problem with it.

And honestly, I don’t care if they do have a problem with it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I am not sure Ron Paul, and the rest of the PLUBs for that matter, are fully aware of just how ridiculous their argument about “abortion lovin’…full term, nine pound baby killers” sounds to a rational person. I’ve written my reaction to this below…but first, here are some thoughts on his “honest rape” statement from those around the blogosphere.

Late Night FDL: If It’s an Honest Rape… | Firedoglake

Just what is a dishonest rape?

I don’t understand this notion that women who support reproductive freedom, choice (and it is my body dammit), translates into “liking abortion,” as if needing an abortion is a desirable, even enjoyable situation.

And also as well, from GottaLaff:

Is this what you call “small government”? Because, call me crazy, but your government intrusion into women’s reproductive rights isn’t exactly hands-off.

Misogyny is never pretty.

First, what exactly is the definition of an “honest rape.” Ron Paul, What Exactly Is An “Honest Rape” | Care2 Causes

Just in case there was any question, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is no friend to women. The latest evidence came during an interview on CNN where he told Piers Morgan that only in cases of “honest rape” would he consider abortion acceptable, and even then in he would just advise the woman to go to the emergency room for “a shot of estrogen.”

“Honest rape”. So, where do we begin?

I guess I would start by asking Paul to follow-up on just what exactly constitutes an “honest” rape. What kind of evidence would we need to show a lack of consent? Does a woman need to have signs she resisted? How much resistance counts before a rape goes from being “fraudulent” to being “honest”? Can spousal rape ever be “honest”? What about other forms of familial rape? What exactly is the bright line here?

Let’s be honest, Paul and his cohorts of misogynistic hate don’t have an exact definition of honest rape, because in their mind…women have to be submissive, men must control them.  To them women are not deserving of respect, period. They see women as second class citizens.  Women do not warrant the distinction of enjoying the same “rights” and “privileges” as men, therefore, women have no real cause to cry rape.

So with that kind of mindset, the phrase “honest rape” is nothing more than a condescending jab to put women in their place.

As I was looking up news items on Paul’s honest rape statement I ran across this, Belief in sex consent studied as rape definition.  It is an article dated June 5th 1980, and it regards a case where a man is accused of raping a woman. The defense in this case asked,

…whether a man should be convicted of rape if he honestly believes his victim consented to intercourse.

Citing a recent Canadian Supreme Court decision which said:

..honest belief is a legitimate defense.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruling, which “drew the women’s wrath…” is described in detail here.

I use this archaic decision from Canada to make a point about the status of women according to Ron Paul, and his attitude that men draw the line when it comes to any issue regarding women.

Listen to his story about some woman, I guess I should preface that with “abortion liking” woman, who attempted to have a discussion about Paul’s pro-life stance on a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.  Paul uttered phrases like “abortion liking” and aborting 7 month fetuses and killing a nine pound baby a day before it emerges from the womb…

He says the women tell him he is not defining abortion the same way they are defining abortion, in other words, that he is taking it out of context…but his response is to disregard the woman’s point entirely…in his mind he is right, the women who try to argue with him are not worthy enough for his consideration.

The entire episode is something we see repeatedly. Obviously, it is ridiculous for me to even try to explain the anti-woman message he is delivering in these interviews. I guess I should just go back into the kitchen and make him some pie…because servitude is the bottom line when it comes to the opinion of women from people like Ron Paul.

Nope, there is no such thing as rape, or a woman’s right to say no, or a woman’s right to make their own decisions as an individual identity. In Paul’s world, men have that “right” to honestly believe women are not equal to men.

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